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There Was A Boy, Once

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Nicholas St. North, also known as the one and only Santa Clause, Guardian of Wonder and protector of children, knew how to throw the best, acceptably wild (but not overly so), perfect, let’s-forget-our-troubles-and-differences-and-get-along peacemaking parties in the world. Jack had heard about North’s parties long before he had actually, met the man himself. Though he had never gone to one- and wouldn’t have even if he had been invited, as much as a loner he had been before the whole Pitch debacle- he had found it difficult to believe that said parties didn’t end in complete disaster. After all, you couldn’t gather this many different spirits in one place and expect there not to be old arguments standing in the way. A fight was all but guaranteed to break out.

But not this time.

This gathering was full, enveloped by a thrumming sense of unity unlike Jack had ever felt before. Where all other occasions when more than two or three spirits were in one place together had quickly fallen apart due to elemental, philosophical, or any number of other reasons, now there were spirits side by side, sharing old stories and new discoveries. Plenty of food and drink was passed around, and while flirtations were handed out with the greatest of ease, there was a notable lack of altercations.

Even stranger still, everyone was noticing Jack. Those who would have ignored him before, or scoffed because of some past trick he had played, were now stopping to chat. Jack’s throat was getting sore, unused to speaking so much in such a short amount of time. He had never even talked to himself this much, and he tended to talk to himself a lot more than was probably normal.

It was overwhelming.

Jack found himself fleeing to the top of the room, settling in a small alcove near the ceiling when no one was looking. He watched the partygoers, tucked securely in his perch. While mid-February temperatures in the arctic were harsh, the inside of North’s workshop, converted to an open party floor for the occasion, was warm and well-lit. Rather than working, the yeti were enjoying the party themselves, though they were less likely to drink as they watched that the guests didn’t wander off from the main floor and into one of the many other rooms of the massive complex. It was strange, to Jack, that all of those people were not working on this night, throwing themselves into the celebration instead.

‘This connection or whatever they called it must be pretty special,’ Jack thought to himself. In all the preparations, he had had little time to find out the exact details of what was going on.

In between Tooth flitting about, Jack had managed to get her to fill him in a little bit. Apparently, some group of spirits that had hidden themselves away long ago had made contact again at the coaxing of their new leader. They had supposedly been hidden away for a long, long time, according to Tooth. But finally, after all this time, the spirits had contacted the outside world under the direction of that newest leader- starting with the Guardians. Their messenger had stated their leader’s desire to come and meet with the Guardians personally. North had set his celebration for the night before the meeting, and things were going off without a hitch.

Jack looked back down at the revelers below, watching them mingle and laugh. More than a few cheeks were flushed- with both good will and most likely plenty of North’s homemade vodka (the man was a Russian through and through). Jack steered clear of the stuff; it burned like fire sliding down your throat. He was glad to see the others enjoying it, though. It was nice, seeing everyone together and having a good time.

A small chirp drew Jack out of his musings. Baby Tooth flitted in front of his face, and he held out a hand for her to settle on with a grin.

“Hey, Baby Tooth. Did Tooth let you take off work for a while?”

Baby Tooth nodded, patting his thumb with a tiny hand. She pointed below, and Jack peered down. North was directing everyone out, helping spirits out the door and opening a window for those with wings. They filed out, still talking and smiling as they went. Some of the older and more powerful spirits would return the next day for the meeting, but chose to go back to their own homes for the night where they would be comfortable. Jack tucked Baby Tooth on his shoulder and dropped down, descending to the main floor when the last few stragglers left. The yeti milled about, but North shook his head.

“Cleanup can wait,” he dismissed. “The mess won’t go anywhere tonight.”

The yeti rumbled in agreement and trudged towards the hall that led to their section of the complex. Jack watched them go, waving at Phil when the light gray yeti made the universal ‘I’m watching you’ movement with his fingers, pointing straight at Jack.

Now that it was just the Guardians, Jack landed, tucking his staff behind his back and padding across the floor to the others.

“Get too much for ya, mate?” Bunny asked, grinning at him. Jack pulled a face and nodded, making him laugh. “North’s parties can be rowdy, but it’s all in good fun.”

“Still, it’s nice to have some quiet,” Tooth said with a smile at Jack. Baby Tooth twittered in agreement.

“Yes, is nice. Come, let us retire in a nicer room.” North led them down a series of winding halls and into a small living room of sorts. The fireplace was blazing, casting light and warmth over plush couches and armchairs. North plopped in the chair closest to the fire, pulling a glass from seemingly out of nowhere and taking a sip. If Jack had to guess, he’d say it was probably scotch. Perhaps whiskey.

Jack settled cross-legged on the plush rug in front of the fire. It was comfortable enough, especially considering he hadn’t really had anything besides rocks and fences to perch on in years.

It was quiet for a while as the others got settled- Tooth in another armchair, Sandy on a cloud of golden sand he whipped up for himself, and Bunny sprawled on the couch, bandolier unhooked and resting on the floor by his feet. North took a gulp of his drink and Bunny sighed.

“The party was good and all… I just hope tomorrow goes just as well.”

Jack tilted his head to the side to look at the Pooka. “Who exactly are these people coming tomorrow anyway?” he asked. “What’s so important about them?”

“Jack, do you know much about magical creatures?” Tooth asked softly. Jack turned away from the fire to face her.

“Magical creatures?”

Tooth nodded. “There was a time that magical creatures of all kinds roamed the earth. They did so without fear of being found.”

“It was a different time then,” Bunny added. “There were a lot less humans around. They hadn’t expanded yet, and most of the land was untamed.”

“As their numbers began to grow, there was less and less space for magical creatures to be free. It became a problem,” Tooth said sadly. “The patron spirits of each species met to make a decision. If things kept on like they were, it would be dangerous- for both the humans and the magical creatures. It was decided that the magical creatures and their patron spirits, their caretakers, would create a new place where they would be free.”

“A new place?” Jack asked in confusion. “What does that mean?”

“A place they made that’s here on earth, but also not. Like Tooth Palace.”

“Or the Warren,” Bunny supplied. “Both are technically a place on earth, but only the entrance is actually connected. Past that, the areas split off into a completely different world, separated from earth so no humans can enter. Unless they have a certain someone’s snow globes, that is.” He shot North a look and North shrugged.

“Was accident.”

Jack chuckled as Bunny’s ears went back, thinking of how much Sophie had loved the Warren. Before Bunny and North could start their usual banter, Tooth cut in. “But they place they made is kept hidden, the location a secret to all but those who live there.”

“But why?” Jack asked. “Why keep it hidden away from other spirits?”

“To protect the magical creatures. They take the responsibility very seriously. The fact that they’re even willing to meet with us shows that we’ve earned their trust.” Tooth sighed. “What I wouldn’t give to meet a unicorn.”

Jack grinned, imagining Cupcake’s reaction if she could have heard what Tooth just said. She’d flip if she knew. “Unicorns?”

Tooth nodded. “Almost all the myths have some basis of truth. Unicorns, kitsunes, trolls…” she ticked off on her fingers. As she listed them, Sandy eagerly formed pictures of the creatures in his sand.

“Dragons,” Bunny cut in. Jack stiffened slightly.

“Dragons?”

Sandy nodded, creating a golden dragon and sending it flying around their heads.

“Bloody fire lizards,” Bunny grumbled. “Had a run in with a few before they left. Took nearly a year for the fur on my tail to grow back.”

“I thought the dragons all died out,” Jack said with a frown, clenching his fists in his lap.

“Nah, mate. They just moved on with the rest of the magical creatures. Took them a bit longer, though. Stubborn things. I think they all finally moved out about, oh, three hundred years ago.”

Tooth looked at Jack curiously. “Do you know about dragons, Jack? I was already so busy with the teeth at the time, I never got to meet one. Are they-?”

“Tooth,” North said firmly, looking at Jack’s shaking hands. “You can ask one of them tomorrow.”

Tooth looked at Jack wide-eyed. He tried to give her a smile, but he was sure that it came out wrong. Sandy’s eyes darted back and forth before he tapped North on the arm and conjured up an image in his sand.

“Cupid?” North asked, stroking his chin. “Yes, Cupid was present at the party.”

Tooth latched onto the change of subject and Jack relaxed slightly. “I saw him trying to shoot the Leprechaun and the Groundhog.” Bunny shuddered.

“What did the Leprechaun ever do to him?” he asked, making Jack halfway smile. Bunny’s distaste for the Groundhog was well-known.

“I don’t think Cupid works on revenge,” Tooth chastised. She blinked. “Not that I’ve ever been hit by him. I guess I wouldn’t know.” She looked at Sandy, who was grinning mischievously at Jack. “What about you, Jack?” He looked up at her. “Has anyone special ever caught your eye before?”

Bunny grinned and sat up straight. “Yeah, Jackie. You ever had a Sheila?”

They loved teasing their youngest member about anything and everything they could think of, making frost blossom on his cheeks in a blue echo of a blush. But this time, there was no blush. It was a given that they would arrived at this question sooner or later, and Jack had always planned on lying and brushing it off. But the sudden ache that had grown heavy in his chest wouldn’t let him. Jack glanced at the dream-sand dragon, still prowling around the room, before looking down and fiddling with the ends of his sleeves.

“Never was a girl,” he said softly. “But… there was a boy, once.” He plucked idly at the cloth of his sweatshirt and looked up. His blue eyes were no longer wide in excitement or shining with mirth. A hidden depth opened in the icy blue, eyes looking but not seeing as Jack was lost, far away in the past. He shook his head and looked back up at the others. He had never told that to a single soul. “Jamie wasn’t my first believer, just my first believer in… a long time. It’s a long story though.”

He stood, turning to the door, but North’s large hand on his shoulder stopped him. North was looking at him in understanding. “We have time.”

Jack swallowed. Memories that he had buried far down in the deep recesses of his mind came pouring out, flashing in front of his eyes like he was still there, experiencing it all again. “I met him about a year after I first woke up as Jack Frost.” Jack crossed the room and retook his seat on the rug, looking at the other Guardians. “His name was Hiccup…”

Chapter Text

“Darkness. That’s the first thing I knew. It was dark, it was cold, and I was scared. But then, then I saw the moon. It was so big, so bright, it seemed to chase the darkness away. And when it did, I wasn’t scared anymore…”

*****

The grotto was beautiful. It was surrounded by tall, natural stone walls, creating a sort of valley nestled within them. The walls protected it from most of the weather, and the handful of trees that grew near the stone were tall, strong things with thick, solid trunks. A large portion of the eastern side of the grotto was taken up by a decent sized pond, almost big enough to be considered a small lake, really. It was deep enough to stay unfrozen until the coldest days of winter, even when the snow piled around it. It was deep and clear, and during the warmer months, cold-water mountain fish thrived in it, darting about in the shallows. The island it was on was far north, past the areas of milder temperatures; the surrounding area was often cold, and dreary with rain or sleet. Jack didn’t mind. He loved it.

It also made his chest heavy with something akin to cold terror.

The uncertain mix of peace and fear that the grotto instilled in him couldn’t fight the pull Jack felt to it, however. As he slowly started learning to control his powers, how to flow with the wind through the air with ease, he started exploring out away from the island further and further, but he would always return within a month or so, feeling the strange pull to the grotto and the clear water of the lake within it.

He would return and stay a few days, noting the little changes that had happened while he was away- new growth in the smaller plants, shifts in the land, anything different was cataloged by bright eyes. Sometimes, he set about exploring the surrounding forest, frosting the tree branches in the cold morning air and making them glisten and glitter in the rising sun.

Never, however, would he go to the nearby village. Not after the last time when, freshly awoken and more than a little confused, he had landed in the heart of the small town to ask for information and was promptly walked through like he was nothing, like he didn’t exist. It never changed, and the disappointment when he realized that was too much for Jack to actively seek out.

Instead, he explored new places and returned to his lake for some peace before heading off again. That was the routine he stuck to, never varying, for a little over a whole year. One year of a quiet, lonely existence.

And then, Jack met him.

It was a normal day for Jack. He was returning to the lake, soaring along with the wind and swatting playfully at the clouds. This trip had taken longer than usual, nearly two months. He had been so distracted by a new island he had stumbled upon that he had lost track of time. It was only when he couldn’t stand the ache in his chest that told him to return that he left, heading for the grotto.

Jack laughed when he finally caught sight of the water glinting in the afternoon sun. The tightness in his chest loosened and he swooped down, skimming his bare toes over the water with a grin. It was a beautiful day, and the grotto was filled with warm sunlight. Jack usually preferred the cold, but he still craved the warm rays of the sun at times.

Jack was looking up at the blue sky, balancing on the top of his staff, one foot in the crook, when he heard it. Muffled scratching, followed by the unmistakable sound of angry muttering. Jack whirled on his staff, searching for the source of the noise. He spotted someone sitting on the far bank of the lake, back turned to Jack. Whoever it was seemed tense, shoulders hunched in a sharp angle. Brunette hair stuck up in wild points, like the person had been running a frustrated hand through it repeatedly.

Jack hopped off of his staff, grabbing it before it could fall and hooking it over his shoulder. He padded silently across the ground, bare feet not making a sound. He bit down on his lip when he felt a pang of panic bolt through him. He had always feared the day when someone from the village found his grotto. It looked like that day had finally come. Jack stopped behind the person, a boy, he realized now that he was closer. The boy had a roughly hewn book with him, full of thick, slightly yellowed pages. He was drawing with a sharpened piece of charcoal, but was apparently dissatisfied with the result because he scribbled over the page with dark, thick lines before snapping the book closed.

“I knew I shouldn’t have come,” he muttered. Jack chuckled, hopping up on top of his staff again and leaning over to look at the boy’s face.

“Come on, it’s not that bad,” he said with a chuckle. It was somewhat self-depreciating, as he knew it was useless to even try. The boy would simply look right through Jack, unable to see him like so many others had.

Or, so Jack had thought.

Instead, the boy whipped around, scuttling backwards quickly until his hands flew out from under him and he fell to the dirt with a thud. Dust settled in his hair, but he paid it no mind, staring up at Jack with wide green eyes. His thin little shoulders heaved with his panicked breaths.

“Oh great Odin,” the boy breathed, still staring at Jack up on his staff. “I knew it. I knew- I’ve finally snapped. I’m going crazy.” He said the last part as if he weren’t surprised, like he had already resigned himself to it. Jack frowned, tilting his head at the strange reaction the boy had to him. Then it hit him, knocking the breath right out of his lungs.

The boy could see him.

“You can see me?” Jack asked, mouth hanging open. The boy watched him, no longer trying to crawl away backwards, but still looking completely unnerved. Jack hopped off of his staff with a grin, doing a bounding dance. “You can see me! You… you believe in me,” he said in awe, stopping his impromptu dance to look at the boy. “You believe in me.”

That snapped the boy out of his trance and he climbed to his feet, running a hand through his hair and knocking clumps of dirt out of the auburn strands. “I can see you,” he said, starting to pace. “You’re obviously there, even if it’s impossible. You must be real, so I have to believe in you…”

Jack pursed his lips at the rambling musings. He stepped into the boy’s path and nearly cheered when he was bumped into, instead of passed through like he was so used to. “I am real,” he said firmly. He stuck his hand out. “Jack Frost,” he greeted.

“Jack Frost?” The boy took Jack’s hand absentmindedly, clearly not paying attention while Jack marveled at the fact that he was touching someone, not going straight through them. “You said I believed in you immediately when you realized that I could see you, so to see you I must have to believe.” His eyes narrowed. “Jokul Frosti,” he said, like it was a realization. Jack tilted his head.

“Jokul Frosti?” he repeated. The boy looked at him.

“The bringer of winter. But… surely you can’t be him…?”

Jack popped his staff up with one foot, catching it in midair. “I can bring ice and snow, but my name’s just Jack. No ‘Jokul’ business.” He froze a rock with a small touch to demonstrate. The auburn-haired boy started gesturing frantically.

“This can’t be happening,” he said to himself, ignoring Jack. “This, this is crazy.”

Jack frowned. “I’m, uh, right here you know.”

The boy’s eyes snapped to him. “I can see that.” He bit his lip. “I, I have to go.” He turned, scooping up his book and striding for the stone wall. Jack floated beside him, trying not to look as distressed as he felt at the first person to see him- his first believer!- leaving so soon.

“Do you… have to go?” he asked quietly. The other boy stopped, sucking in a deep breath before turning back to Jack.

“I do.” He worried his lower lip with slightly crooked teeth. “I’ve been gone too long, my dad will be looking for me.” He took in Jack’s expression and sighed. “I can come back tomorrow?” he offered. Jack grinned.

“Really?” he asked, nearly shaking with excitement.

“Really. I’ll come back whenever I can sneak away for a while.”

Jack whooped and did a back flip right there, much to the other boy’s surprise if the look on his face was anything to go by. “That’s great,” Jack said when he landed upright. The other boy nodded and turned to leave. Jack found himself catching the boy’s sleeve before he could stop himself.

“Wait. What’s your name?”

The other boy was quiet for a long moment. “Hiccup,” he finally said without turning around. He tugged his sleeve out of Jack’s hand and left through a small opening in the rock wall Jack had never noticed before.

“Hiccup…” Jack murmured, trying the name out. Hiccup, his first believer- someone who could actually see him.

Jack laughed and leapt into the air, making a loop around the grotto in delight.

*****

That night and most of the next day was filled with a bitter sort of excitement. Jack couldn’t sit still, knowing that someone could see him, and he wasn’t alone anymore, he was believed in….! He made loops around the grotto, staying within sight of it out of fear that he might miss Hiccup’s return if he strayed too far. Just the thought of Hiccup returning sent Jack’s heart pounding. Hiccup was going to come back, and see him!

A small voice in the back of Jack’s mind piped up in a sickeningly dark whisper.

What if he doesn’t see you?

That sent Jack’s heart pounding, but for an entirely different reason. What if it was a one-time fluke? Hiccup had been shocked to see him, confusion and fear marring his voice. That wasn’t the reaction you’d normally get from someone who believed in you. What if Hiccup decided that Jack wasn’t real, that it was in his imagination? What if Hiccup didn’t come? Jack’s stomach dropped sharply. What if Hiccup did come back, but his eyes skipped right over Jack?

What if…?

Jack was curled in on himself, eyes closed as he tried to fight the lingering doubt. The late afternoon sun beat down on his back, warming the leather of his cloak. If Jack wasn’t a winter spirit, he’d probably be sweating. He barely paid any attention to his surroundings, shaking his head as if he were trying to physically knock those dark thoughts loose from his mind.

“No, no it won’t happen!”

“What won’t?”

Jack nearly jumped at the voice that sounded behind him. He turned sharply. Hiccup was standing there, brows furrowed. He had a pack slung over his shoulder, and he was tilting his head curiously. “Jack? Are you okay?”

Jack could almost have cried at that.

“You can still see me?” he asked. “You still believe in me?”

Hiccup’s shoulders lifted in an awkward half-shrug. “Uh, I guess? I mean, I saw you yesterday, and you were pretty real.” He hoisted the pack off of his back, plopping it in the dirt and sitting down cross-legged, facing Jack. “Were you really worried about that?”

Now that he could see that his fears were obviously unfounded, Jack flushed, frost covering his cheeks in a thin film. “Maybe,” he said, pointedly looking away. “You are my first believer. I’m not used to it, I guess.” He peeked at Hiccup.

Hiccup’s eyes were wide, his mouth parted slightly in surprise. His eyes flashed with something akin to guilt before he caught himself and shrugged. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I won’t stop believing that easily. I can’t.” Before Jack could respond, Hiccup tugged his back over and opened the leather flap. “Oh, I brought you something by the way,” he said as he dug through it. “I didn’t know if you had anything to eat or not.” He produced what looked like a fully cooked fish and held it out to Jack. Jack looked at it uncomprehendingly. “Uh… You do eat, right?”

Jack shrugged. “I don’t think I have to,” he said slowly. “I never have…”

Hiccup stared at him. “How long has it been since you ate?”

“Hmm, ah, over a year?” Jack said uncertainly. “I mean, that’s how long I’ve been alive. I never thought about it, but I guess I don’t need to eat…”

“One year? That’s all you’ve lived?”

“Yes,” Jack said defensively. “But, I was like this when I woke.” He gestured to his lanky teenage body. “And I, I don’t know; I know things, without having experienced them. Comes with the territory, I suppose.”

Hiccup frowned. “You mean, being a spirit and all?”

“Hm? Yeah, I think so. I’m not exactly the expert yet.” Jack laughed. “Give it another hundred years or two.” At Hiccup’s startled noise, Jack nodded. “Some of the older spirits are as old as the earth itself.” Not that he had gotten the privilege to meet them, of course. He had barely met any other elemental spirits, let alone one of the big guys. He had chosen to mostly steer clear of the other elementals, they could be mean sometimes; but he had listened to some of what they had to say when they realized that he was new.

“Oh…” It was quiet, barely discernible. Jack looked at Hiccup’s tight expression.

“Hey,” Jack said, catching Hiccup’s attention and drawing him out of whatever thoughts he was lost in. “Can I try it?” He motioned to the fish, nearly forgotten in Hiccup’s hands. “I don’t know if I need to eat, but maybe I can. Worth a try, right? Especially since you went ahead and cooked it already.”

Hiccup nodded and handed it over to Jack. Jack placed his staff down on the ground beside them and lifted the fish up, taking a bite.

Flavor exploded on his tongue, and he had to fight back a groan. “Wow,” he breathed, taking another bite. The fish was perfectly browned and flaky, melting in Jack’s mouth. It was still warm, fresh, and Jack wondered why he hadn’t been eating all this time, if it could be like this.

“Does that mean it’s good?” Hiccup asked. Jack nodded.

“It’s delicious,” he declared, taking another bite. Hiccup rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.

“It’s not much. I barely had any spices left.” He watched Jack eagerly take another bite. “Sometimes I cook for myself, rather than go to the Great Hall where everyone else takes their meals.”

Jack finished the bite he had just taken and glanced at Hiccup. “Why?” he asked curiously. Hiccup fidgeted, plucking at his sleeve.

“No one really likes me,” he finally said. Jack frowned.

“But why? You’re… you’re really nice.”

“I don’t make a very good Viking,” Hiccup said with a sad smile. “I’m not strong, or tough, I’m horrible at fighting, and I get hurt too easily.” He shrugged. “I’m a poor excuse for a Viking.”

Jack bit his lip, thinking. The way Hiccup spoke showed a deep, old wound, one that he probably revisited often. Someone had put him down so much that he believed it himself. It made that spot in Jack’s chest, the one that held a secret significance in the grotto, ache fiercely.

“Hey, hey,” he said, nudging Hiccup’s knee with his own. “So you don’t make a good Viking? If you’re not going to be a Viking, at least be the best not-Viking ever.”

Hiccup sucked in a sharp breath and looked up from where he was worrying a loose thread at the end of his sleeve. The hurt was still there, but less evident in his eyes. He smiled crookedly, showing a gap in his front teeth. “Thanks, Jack.”

Jack grinned.

Chapter Text

“He might have not been a ‘good Viking,’ but he was a great person. I think you would have liked him. He would have loved to see all of the new technology they have now. He was an inventor. There wasn’t a problem he met that he didn’t immediately try to pick apart piece by piece to find a solution…”

*****

Jack wondered if this was what it felt like to be in a dream. Sleeping was like eating- he felt that, if he took a notion to, he could sleep, but he didn’t need to, so he had never tried. A dream was the closest thing he could think of to describe his days, though. Hiccup would make the trek to the grotto daily now, to visit Jack. If he could slip away early enough, he would pack his lunch and share it with Jack, laughing and talking over new and exciting flavors for Jack to try. If Hiccup couldn’t make the trip until late in the afternoon, he would bring his book so he could sit and sketch while Jack skipped rocks on the surface of the lake, chatting sometimes or just simply enjoying the other’s presence.

They talked about small, insignificant things, but Jack learned a lot about Hiccup from what was said. He was an only child, the son and heir of the chief of Berk. His mother had died when he was a baby, leaving his father to raise him. Hiccup was by far the scrawniest, weakest kid in the village, and was considered weird for his interest in superstitions and creating new things.

One day, Jack asked about the book Hiccup was always scribbling in. Hiccup hesitated before showing Jack the sketch he was working on. Jack eyed the picture.

“What is it?” he finally asked.

“It’s, uh, to help me hunt,” Hiccup explained. “This part holds a net,” he said, pointing each piece out. “When it’s finished, it’ll launch the net out for me, catching um, big prey.”

Jack nodded. “That’s amazing, Hiccup.” He could see the genius in it. If it worked right, it would let someone even as small as Hiccup catch large prey. In a climate as cold as the one Hiccup lived in, food was a big concern. “How far have you gotten on it?”

Hiccup ran a hand through his hair. “I, I think I’ve almost got it right,” he said. “I’ve just got a few pieces to adjust, and I think it’ll work.”

“Really? That’s great! I wish I could see it,” Jack sighed. Hiccup glanced around before leaning forward.

“I guess you could come take a look,” he murmured. “I know you don’t like the village.” Jack had told Hiccup of the time he had visited Berk, only to discover that absolutely no one could see him. “But, I can see you. It’d be better if they couldn’t anyway, right? Vikings aren’t, uh, the best with…” he gestured to Jack.

“Anyone different?” Jack supplied dryly. Hiccup nodded.

“Pretty much. But if they can’t see you, you’ll be safe.”

Jack hummed as he thought. Hiccup did have a point. He couldn’t get in trouble for visiting Berk if no one but Hiccup could see him. Plus… Jack glanced over at Hiccup. He probably didn’t have anyone else he could show his invention to. The rest of the Vikings would probably blow him off if he tried, telling him he was wasting his time. He had been working on it for a while, and the excitement in his eyes when he spoke about how it was nearly complete was contagious. Finally, Jack smiled.

“Sure. I’d love to see it.”

*****

The decided to wait until nightfall, when the village would be almost completely empty and no one would notice if Hiccup started talking seemingly to himself. Jack padded along behind Hiccup, taking in all of the buildings. He stopped to run his fingers over the carvings of one particularly bright house. “It’s changed a lot since the last time I was here,” he mused. Hiccup glanced back at him.

“Y-yeah, we’ve been here for a while, seven generations I think, but, Vikings, what can you do? We end up having to build new houses all the time.”

“Woah, you guys end up destroying your own houses?” Jack asked with a laugh. “Remind me not to get on your bad side.”

“Oh, haha,” Hiccup said, rolling his eyes. “Like anyone could be afraid of me. Come on.” He motioned Jack over before Jack could reply. He opened the door of a slightly older-looking building. The inside was dark, only the pale light of the moon streaming in a single window illuminated the room until Hiccup built up a smile fire in the hearth. The whole place smelled of iron, and coal. Once the fire was going, Jack looked around. They were standing in some sort of workshop. A heavy anvil stood beside the fire, blackened with use but still standing strong and sturdy. An equally large sharpening stone was set up on the other side of the room. The walls were covered in hooks with various pieces of equipment and weapons waiting within reach of the workspaces.

“Impressive.”

“I work here sometimes,” Hiccup said as he began unwrapping a large, lumpy piece of equipment. “I may not be strong, but I can fix a blade quicker than anyone else.” There was a rarely-heard note of pride in his voice that had Jack smiling.

Before Hiccup could pull the cover off of his invention, he paused, cocking his head to the side. Jack glanced out of the window, frowning as he heard bells. Hiccup sighed.

“Oh no…”

The bells continued ringing, joined by a chorus of angry shouting. The voices got louder as their owners ran by, heavily booted feet pounding along the road. Jack crossed over to the window, cracking it open and peering through, blinking in the light of the early morning sun.

Only… what he thought was the morning sun was actually the intense blaze of a fire that ravaged the building across the road, tongues licking at the timber and making it groan in protest. The most likely culprit was standing right in front of the window Jack was peering out of- a giant, winged lizard that was on fire.

“Get down!”

Hiccup tackled Jack just as the lizard looked over at the window. They fell to the floor, and Hiccup clamped his hand over Jack’s mouth to muffle his startled shout. Jack held his breath, able to practically feel the heat coming from the vicious fire.

There was a shout, followed by a thud and a grumbling roar, and Hiccup rolled off of Jack. Jack hopped to his feet, gripping his staff so hard it bit into his hand. “What was that?!”

Hiccup hefted himself up, leaning heavily on the counter. “Dragon,” he breathed. “Monstrous Nightmare; they have this nasty habit of setting themselves on fire.”

“So I saw!” Jack gestured to the window wildly. “Why-?”

The door flung open, and Jack threw himself in front of Hiccup protectively, only to be walked through by a large, blonde Viking with a hook for a hand and a peg leg. He clung to his staff at the painful, invasive feeling.

“Hiccup!” the large blonde man cried. “Nice of you to join the party on time for once!” He patted Hiccup on the back heavily, making the brunette stagger to the side. “Now I don’t have to worry about you getting carried off.”

“Who, me?” Hiccup asked, eyes darting over to Jack. “They wouldn’t know what to do with… all this?” He made a pose, showing off nonexistent muscle. His eyes were pleading, but Jack shrugged.

“I don’t know what you expect me to do?” he said, leaning against his staff and watching the proceedings with interest now that he had caught his breath again. “I’m invisible, remember? He can’t see me.”

The blonde rolled his eyes, twisting the base of his hook hand until it popped off and quickly exchanging it for a hammer. “Even dragons need toothpicks, don’t they?”

Jack frowned, resisting the urge to freeze the bottom of the man’s shoes until they were nice and slick. Hiccup just shrugged, hurriedly tying a thick leather apron over his clothes. The blonde man unhooked a hatch Jack had previously missed and propped open a large window. There was already a line of Vikings waiting with dinged shields and dented weapons. The first one handed the blonde a sword, who tossed it to Hiccup.

“Sword, sharpen,” he barked before turning to the next Viking in line.

Hiccup hefted a sword nearly larger than him across the room to the sharpening stone. He started the wheel spinning and began to hone the edge of the blade, sparks flying. Jack weaved his way through the equipment to stand next to the stone. Hiccup glanced to make sure the other Viking was busy, attention elsewhere, before speaking.

“The meathead with interchangeable hands is Gobber. He runs the forge, and I’ve been his apprentice since I was little. Er, littler.”

Jack glanced over at Gobber, watching him swap a damaged axe for a fresh one. Behind him, out the window, Jack could see bright orange flames. Dragons were running in front of them, silhouettes sharp and clear against the bright light. There were several different kinds other than the one he had seen. Thick, bumpy, brown-skinned dragons were knocking their way through walls with ease. Several blue dragons with two lower legs and sharp, spiked tails were grabbing startled sheep in their claws, lifting them into the air with ease. Two green dragons were working together to light and empty house on fire; when the smoke cleared, Jack realized that it was not two dragons, but one dragon with two heads. Chaos was everywhere, with thick, stocky Vikings wrestling the large dragons amid the embers of the various fires that dotted the entire village.

Hiccup had finished with the sword and was sharpening the axe Gobber had received earlier. Jack turned to him with a deep frown. “Why, though? Why are they attacking?”

“It’s not-”

“Hiccup! They need me out there,” Gobber declared, nearly running right through Jack again as he hurried to grab an axe of his own. “Mind the store while I’m gone.” Gobber paused at the door, turning back to Hiccup. “Stay. I mean it.” He backed out of the door. “Stay. Put. Here.”

Hiccup waited approximately two seconds before abandoning the sharpening stone and sprinting over to his invention. He whipped the cover off, revealing a large contraption similar to that that he had drawn in his book. Hiccup hefted it up on a single front wheel, steering it out of the door. Jack blinked before following after him, ignoring the outraged shouts of the Vikings that Hiccup left behind.

“Hiccup! Wait, where are you going?”

Jack followed Hiccup through the smoke of the ruined village, staff at the ready. He knocked a dragon off course with a wide swing of the staff, steering it away from Hiccup’s path. Finally, Hiccup stopped on a high hill, dropping his invention and opening the top. He pulled the barrel that would launch the net out, setting it up to point at the dark sky. Jack landed beside him.

“What are you doing? You could have been hurt!”

“I couldn’t miss my chance!” Hiccup gripped the handle of the barrel, peering up into the sky. A loud, shrill sound echoed over the hill, and Hiccup nodded. “You hear that? It’s a Night Fury… the rarest dragon of them all. If I catch one, everyone would be so surprised.”

Jack glanced up at the sky, frown marring his face. “Why are the Vikings and dragons fighting anyway?” he asked for the third time.

“Dragons are our enemies,” Hiccup said, like that answered everything. “They attack us constantly, stealing our food and destroying our village.”

The loud, shrill roar sounded again, and Hiccup’s grip on the barrel of his invention tightened. “Come on, come on,” he murmured. Jack gripped his staff uncertainly.

A nearby tower exploded in blue fire. Hiccup swung the net launcher around, taking aim at the dark shadow that passed over the fire and pulling the trigger. He gasped as the dragon roared, a faint glow of embers trailing downwards across the sky signaling its descent into the forest on the other side of Berk.

“I hit it.” Hiccup threw his hands up. “I actually hit it! Did you see that, Jack?”

“Yeah…”

Hiccup whirled, but paused when he faced Jack, staring behind him. “I wasn’t talking to you.”

Jack turned in time to see the Nightmare burst into flames. Hiccup screamed and ran, trying to escape the fire. Jack flew beside him, shooting slick patches of ice in the dragon’s path. It tripped, but not enough to slow it down much. Hiccup ducked behind a tower, knees shaking. Jack summoned a flow of ice and wind to direct the dragon’s fiery blast away from Hiccup as much as he could, so it hit the wood of the tower instead of Hiccup’s head. He cursed as the dragon advanced. His ice wasn’t strong enough to stop the fire.

The dragon peered around the thick wood of the tower, eyeing Hiccup. Jack stepped between them, shielding Hiccup with his staff raised. “Hiccup, run!”

Suddenly, the dragon was knocked sideways. A massive Viking with an enormous amount of thick red hair stood there. The dragon shook the hit off and opened its mouth to blast the man away, but the flame fell short.

“Looks like you’re all out of juice,” the man rumbled, before pummeling the dragon with his fist. While he took care of the dragon, Jack knelt beside Hiccup.

“Are you okay?” he asked, looking the smaller boy over to check for wounds. Hiccup nodded, and Jack held out a hand to help hoist Hiccup up to his feet. They turned and looked just as the tower, weakened by the molten fire the dragon had spewed at it, fell and knocked over two more towers, subsequently unhooking the nets that held the dragons that the Vikings had captured down. Said dragons leapt to freedom, gleefully taking a large chunk of Berk’s sheep population with them. Hiccup winced as the redheaded Viking turned a glare on him.

“Sorry… dad.”

Ah. So that was Stoick the Vast, chief of Berk and Hiccup’s father. Jack winced as yet another tower fell behind them.

“Okay,” Hiccup said quickly, “but I hit a Night Fury.”

Stoick’s eyes narrowed and he grabbed Hiccup up with one large hand. Jack grimaced and followed closely behind them.

“It’s not like the last few times, dad,” Hiccup insisted, glancing at Jack. Jack tried to smile encouragingly. “I really actually hit it this time. It went down just off of Raven’s Point. We should get a search party-”

“Hiccup, enough,” Stoick said, cutting his son off mid-sentence. “Every time you step outside, disaster falls. Why can’t you follow the simplest of orders?”

Jack frowned and stepped up next to Hiccup, placing a hand on his shoulder. No one else could see him, but Hiccup could feel his encouragement, at least.

“I can’t help it,” Hiccup said firmly. “Whenever I see a dragon, I just have to, to kill it. It’s who I am, dad.” Jack had never heard a more blatant lie, but this man was most of the reason Hiccup was so down on himself all the time. He couldn’t imagine Stoick’s reaction had Hiccup replied with anything else.

As it was, Stoick shook his head in disappointment. “You are many things, Hiccup, but a dragon killer is not one of them.” He took Hiccup’s shoulder right from under Jack’s hand and steered him towards Gobber, the blonde man from before. “Take him home, and make sure he stays there.”

Gobber smacked the back of Hiccup’s head before following him towards the edge of the village. They passed a group of younger Vikings that looked like they might be Hiccup’s age. One of them, a thick boy with dark hair and an ugly sneer laughed as Hiccup went by. “I’ve never seen someone mess up that badly. That actually helped!”

Hiccup’s shoulders hunched and he looked down. “Yes, thank you, I tried.”

Jack gaped and lifted his staff to knock the boy over, but Gobber beat him to it. He grabbed the boy’s helmet and shoved him so hard he fell to the ground. Gobber caught up with Hiccup, but Jack stayed behind to freeze the boy’s clothes stiff against his skin, for good measure.

“He’s better than you,” Jack said, getting close to the boy’s sneering face. He couldn’t see Jack, but it made Jack feel better. “You’ll see, soon. You all will.”

Jack huffed and took off, riding the wind in the direction that Hiccup and Gobber had disappeared to. A single house stood on the outskirts of the village, closest to the forest. Hiccup was standing on the front steps, talking to Gobber.

“I just want to be one of you guys,” Jack caught Hiccup saying before he slipped inside the large door, closing it on Gobber without another word. Jack made to fly around the house, looking for a window he could go in, when the back door opened. Hiccup jumped out, heading for the forest at a fast trot. Jack swooped down next to him.

“What will you do now?”

Hiccup clenched his fists tightly by his side. “I’m going to go find that dragon.”

Chapter Text

“Hiccup was brave, though not in the usual, respected, charge-in-the-midst-of-battle Viking way. He always had been little, scrawny, and weaker than the other kids his age, but he never let that stop him. He kept going, no matter how seemingly impossible it was, determined to prove that he could do it, both to the people of Berk and to himself. He had the kind of courage that never wavers, no matter how many times it got battered and beaten and knocked down.”

*****

Hiccup squeezed his eyes shut, gripping his book tightly with hope. He sighed and opened his eyes again, only to see the same lush vegetation and distinct lack of dragon he had been faced with for the past few hours. With a growl, he marked a thick ‘X’ over the makeshift map he had drawn in his book. Angrily, he scribbled over the entire map and closed the book with a snap.

“The gods hate me,” he mumbled. “Some people lose their knife in the bog, but no- I manage to lose an entire dragon.”

Jack, floating beside him, shrugged. “It’s a big island.” He had already flown over the island, trying to help Hiccup out, but that was a lot of land to spot one single dragon well-known for its ability to camouflage itself in most situations. Not to mention Jack was hesitant to leave Hiccup alone for very long with a dragon somewhere in the forest waiting for him. Hiccup narrowed his eyes at Jack.

“An entire dragon.”

He huffed and swatted at a low hanging branch, only to have it swing back at him and hit his head. “Ow!” he yelped while Jack hid a grin. “Hey…” Hiccup pointed to the tree. It was nearly snapped in half, bending low towards the ground. A little ways away, the ground itself was torn up. Hiccup followed the trail of destruction to a low shelf, Jack following behind him closely. Hiccup gasped at the sight of a large, black figure down below the rocks, ducking back down out of sight. Jack stayed standing, studying the dragon. Hiccup glared at him, but Jack shrugged.

“What? It’s not like it can see me,” he said quietly. Hiccup rolled his eyes and gently crawled over the edge of the shelf, dropping down level with the dragon and hiding behind the rocks in front of it.

“Okay,” he murmured, digging beneath his vest and producing a knife. Jack landed beside him with a frown.

“Hic…”

Hiccup ignored him, creeping out from behind the rocks to approach the dragon. Its limbs were tied down securely with the thick ropes of Hiccup’s net. As the brunette got closer, his posture got more comfortable.

“I did this!” he said, staring at the dragon. “I brought down this mighty beast!” He lifted a foot, placing it on the dragon’s leg. The dragon, completely still up until then, shrugged him off with an annoyed roar.

“Hiccup, wait,” Jack said, jumping down to join him beside the dragon. “What are you going to do now?”

Hiccup’s fist tightened around the handle of the knife. “I’m going to cut out his heart and take it back to my father.” The dragon’s eyes snapped open, staring up at Hiccup. Jack felt like his expression was the same.

“What?” Jack breathed, nearly dropping his staff in shock. Defending the village against an attack was one thing, but killing a dragon while it was helplessly tied up? “Isn’t there another way? I mean, you said the village keeps some dragons on hand for training. You can’t just-”

“I can!” Hiccup cut Jack off insistently. The dragon lifted its head slightly to watch them, studying them intently with large green eyes. “I have to,” Hiccup continued, lifting the knife up and poising it downwards to strike. “This will fix everything. I won’t be the lonely loser any more. I’ll have friends other than someone who no one believes even exists.”

Jack felt like someone had punched him in the gut. He took a step back, eyes widening. Hiccup immediately dropped his head in guilt. “I didn’t mean… not like that…”

Jack pulled his staff tightly to his chest, mouth set in a thin line. Hiccup grimaced and raised the knife higher. “I have to kill you, dragon.”

The dragon sighed and put its head down, eyes resigned. Hiccup mumbled something to himself, bracing his arms to swing downwards, but Jack wasn’t looking at him. He was looking at the dragon…

Who was looking back at him.

Jack jumped, startled, as those green eyes looked right into his. There was knowledge and a deep sense of understanding in their depths. Jack’s mouth dropped open. “You can see me?” he whispered harshly, closing his eyes. He couldn’t watch.

Hiccup made a determined noise, and the dragon closed his eyes as well, bracing for the impact.

An impact that never came.

“I can’t,” Hiccup said quietly, arms falling to his sides. “I did this…” he glanced at the knife and turned away from the dragon.

Both the dragon’s and Jack’s eyes snapped open at the sound of sawing. Hiccup was knelt by the dragon’s side, quickly slicing through the ropes that held him down. The ropes gave way with ease, releasing the dragon’s legs.

Before Jack could move, the dragon was up, one massive paw slamming Hiccup back against the rocks. Hiccup flinched, dropping his knife, face pale. The dragon’s eyes narrowed down at him.

“No!” Jack shouted. The dragon looked over at him. “Don’t hurt him!”

The dragon jerked his head and huffed. He reared back, jet black wings parting open slightly, before pounding down, one paw on each side of Hiccup’s head, claws digging into the ground. He opened his mouth and roared, shaking the trees nearby and sending several wild birds flying. Hiccup threw his arms over his head in fear.

The dragon snorted one last time before darting away, disappearing into the trees. Hiccup and Jack watched him go, hearts still pounding from the encounter. Hiccup absently picked his knife up and stood, mouth parted slightly.

“Oh…”

He hit the ground in a dead faint before Jack could catch him.

*****

Jack silently followed Hiccup on his trek home, after the brunette had finally woke after collapsing. The air between them was tense, making Jack’s chest heavy with dread. Hiccup’s earlier words rang in his ears, making him wince every time he replayed them over and over. As for Hiccup himself, he was pale and quiet, making a point not to look over at Jack.

It was night by the time they reached Berk, and Hiccup was stumbling and yawning. Two days and no sleep had him trudging straight towards his house, no doubt eager to crawl in bed. At the door, Hiccup hesitated before holding it out wider than he needed to, clearly inviting Jack to come in. After a moment’s hesitation, Jack slipped through the door.

The main living area was mostly dark, the only light coming from a fire in the middle of the room and casting long shadows over the walls. Hiccup headed straight for a set of stairs to the left, beginning his ascent. He paused when a low voice rumbled, “Hiccup.”

Hiccup turned, looking at Stoick. “Hi, uh, dad. I was just, um…” he made a wide gesture.

“I need to speak with you, son,” Stoick said, standing from his seat by the fire. He walked across the room, fiddling with his fingers in a gesture that was oddly endearing on such a large man.

“Yeah, I have to talk to you too,” Hiccup said, running a hand through his hair.

Both of the Haddock’s opened their mouths at the same time.

“I’ve decided I don’t want to fight dragons.”

“I’ve decided it’s time you learn how to fight dragons.”

Jack grimaced, but Hiccup spoke before Jack could warn him. “Uh, you go first.”

Stoick nodded. “You get your wish. You start dragon training in the morning.”

Hiccup made a face and glanced at Jack for the first time since he woke up. “Oh, wow, I really should have gone first. I was thinking, you know, we have a surplus of dragon fighting Vikings, but do we have enough bread making Vikings? Or small home repair Vikings?”

Stoick very clearly ignored him, hefting a large axe up and pushing it into Hiccup’s arms. “You’ll need this.”

Hiccup sighed. “Are you even listening to me?”

“Hiccup.” Stoick’s voice was firm, leaving no room for argument. “When you carry that axe, you become one of us. You have to start acting like it.”

“This conversation is feeling very one sided.”

Jack had to agree with Hiccup. Stoick, however, did not.

“Hiccup. Do we have a deal?”

Hiccup frowned and nodded. Stoick’s shoulders relaxed slightly.

“Good. Study hard.” He grabbed a large helmet that was hanging beside the door and hefted a large bag over his shoulder. “We’re making one last attempt to reach the dragon’s nest before winter. I’ll be back in a few days’ time.” He paused. “Probably.”

Hiccup placed the axe down and shook out his arms. “I’ll be here. Maybe.”

Then the most awkward interaction Jack had seen ended, Stoick heading out into the night and Hiccup turning to climb the stairs. Jack followed him uncertainly. Hiccup was already kicking off his boots by the time Jack reached the top of the stairs. “You can sleep here, if you want,” Hiccup said without looking at Jack. He slipped into his bed and pulled the covers over his head without another word.

Jack thought about telling him that he didn’t sleep, but decided not to. Instead, he made himself comfortable on the window sill and settled in for what was guaranteed to be a long night.

*****

Dragon training started bright and early the next morning. Hiccup rolled out of bed and got ready without a word, leaving Jack to trail behind him awkwardly. There was a chill in the morning air as they made their way through the village, heading for the largest structure in Berk. A massive arena stood up on a cliff, facing the sea. It was enclosed by strong metal chains, preventing anything from flying out. Giant wooden doors stood in front of stone pens, rattling as the dragons contained within growled and roared for their freedom.

The rest of the young Vikings were already in the arena, looking around in wonder. One of the twins, the boy named Tuffnut, as Hiccup had told Jack, grinned.

“I hope I get some serious burns,” he declared loudly, voice echoing off of the stone walls surrounding them. His twin, Ruffnut, rolled her shoulders.

“I’m hoping for some mauling, like, on my shoulder or lower back.”

Jack tilted his head in confusion, watching them. The only other girl, Astrid- who was apparently the favorite to win the title of the best in dragon training this year- laughed in agreement. “Yeah, it’s only fun if you get a scar out of it.”

Hiccup finally stepped out of the shadows, looking like he would rather be anywhere else in the world at that moment. “Yeah,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Pain, right? Love it.”

The other Vikings pulled faces at his appearance.

“What is he doing here?”

“Can I transfer to the class with the cool Vikings?”

Hiccup stared down at the rocky floor, gripping the handle of his father’s axe tightly. Jack swallowed, resisting the urge to cross over to him. Hiccup had asked him to keep his distance during training. This was something he had to do alone, even if he was likely to fail. Jack flew up to the chains that crossed over the top of the arena, perching on one to watch the training.

Gobber came stumping up beside Hiccup. “That’s enough, let’s get started with this year’s training. It’s time to see which one of you will have the honor of killing his first dragon in front of the entire village.”

Snotlout, Hiccup’s worse aggressor and cousin, from what Jack had been told, sneered. “Hiccup already killed a Night Fury, so does that disqualify him, or…?”

Gobber snorted and motioned for them to line up, steering Hiccup to stand next to Fishlegs, the largest Viking their age, and one who was somewhat nice to Hiccup at times. He began naming off the various dragons that they held captive specifically for dragon training. The Deadly Nadder, the Hideous Zippleback, the Terrible Terror, and the Gronkle- all dragons that Hiccup had described and named for Jack while they were looking for the downed Night Fury.

Jack had to restrain himself from flying down to join Hiccup when Gobber released the Gronkle with no warning, declaring that they would all learn ‘on the job.’ Said dragon quickly started launching fireballs at the Vikings, who thankfully had grabbed up shields for protection. The Gronkle had obviously been put through this before, as it easily hit each trainee before moving on to the next. Jack had to wonder how many times it had completed the same exercise with each year’s set of trainees.

While Jack was musing, Hiccup had been hit. He had lasted long, at least; only Astrid was left. Jack smiled, but it quickly slid off his face when the Gronkle continued after Hiccup rather than turning to face Astrid. Hiccup’s shield had been blasted out of his hands, and he ended up with his back pressed against the wall, eyes wide with fear. Jack launched himself down as fast as he could manage.

“Hiccup!”

Just as the Gronkle was about to blast Hiccup head on, Gobber’s hook snagged the dragon’s mouth and lifted him up, aiming the fireball safely above Hiccup’s head. Jack landed and leaned against the wall, letting out a relieved sound. Hiccup glanced at him before watching Gobber wrestle the Gronkle back towards its cage.

“Go back to bed, you overgrown sausage,” Gobber growled, manhandling the dragon back into the cage. Before the door shut completely, the dragon glanced out at Jack, tilting its head in confusion. Jack straightened at the sight, brows furrowing.

“Can you guys all see me?” he wondered aloud. Hiccup hummed questioningly, but Gobber tugged him up on his feet to get his attention.

“Remember, a dragon will always, always go for the kill,” he said sharply. “You can not hesitate, or they will roast you.”

Hiccup bit his lip and glanced over at Jack. They were both thinking the same thing.

Then why didn’t the Night Fury attack them?

Chapter Text

“I never understood how anyone could ignore Hiccup, like the people on Berk did. He was so captivating. If you knew him, really knew who he was, you’d never be able to forget him. He was… just so uniquely Hiccup. No matter what his father wanted, Hiccup didn’t walk like a Viking, talk like them, or think like them. Honestly, he was all the better for it.”

*****

“Do you really think he’s still here?”

Hiccup looked up from where he was crouched, studying the pieces of the net that the dragon had left behind. He and Jack were in the forest once again. Gobber had left the first day of dragon training off after the Gronkle had nearly blown Hiccup’s head off, letting the recruits go collect themselves before the next day’s exercises. Hiccup had headed straight for the forest, barely stopping to grab something to eat at his house along the way. Jack had followed, still unsure if he was exactly welcome.

Hiccup shrugged, fiddling with the frayed ends of the rope in his hands. “I don’t know. Probably not, but I wanted to look.” He ducked his head, staring down at the ground. Jack looked away, staring out at the trees surrounding them.

“Sorry,” he murmured. Some deep part of him couldn’t help but worry that Hiccup… if Jack was too overbearing, around too much, that Hiccup would ask him to leave. That he wouldn’t want Jack around anymore, especially after his harsh words the day before. “I didn’t mean… I was just thinking…” he trailed off.

Hiccup made an unhappy noise and stood, whirling around to face Jack. He stepped forward, and Jack nearly jumped out of his skin when Hiccup threw his arms around him. “I’m sorry,” Hiccup mumbled into Jack’s cloak. “About, uh, yesterday. I didn’t mean it.” The hug was tight, squeezing Jack a little more than necessary. The unsure way Hiccup held his arms spoke volumes with a hint of loneliness; Hiccup hugged like he wasn’t used to hugging. It was awkward and a little uncomfortable.

It was perfect.

Jack melted into the first hug he could ever remember receiving, wrapping his arms around Hiccup in return. The little knot that had formed in his chest in response to Hiccup’s outburst vanished completely, taking a huge weight off of his shoulders with it. “I know you didn’t. It’s okay.”

After a moment, Hiccup stepped back, clearing his throat. He looked to the side, biting his lip. “Um, shall we go?” He motioned to the trail that the dragon had left behind. Now that Jack was really looking, he noticed a sense of familiarity about the area.

“Doesn’t that lead…?”

Hiccup nodded. “To the grotto.”

“The place we first met.” Jack hummed and followed Hiccup through the trees. The trail led to a spot on the top of the rock walls surrounding the grotto, a small passageway large enough for Hiccup to walk in passing through the stone. As he and Jack reached the edge and stopped to look out over their grotto, a few birds startled at their appearance, taking off with a shout. There was no obvious sign that the dragon had even come that way.

“Well, it was stupid to expect him to be here,” Hiccup commented. “But it’s been a few days since we were here. It’s nice.”

Jack nodded in agreement. He floated towards the opening just as Hiccup knelt down and picked up a large, black scale.

The dragon appeared without warning, almost crashing into Jack head on as it scrambled its way up the stone wall, desperately grasping for the top and falling short. Jack fell back next to Hiccup as the dragon growled and let go of the stone wall, gracelessly gliding down to land on the far side of the lake. He whipped his tail and shot an angry fireball at the ground, obviously frustrated. Hiccup gave Jack a hand, pulling him up to his feet before dropping down onto a lower boulder, giving him clear view of the grotto. He pulled out his book when Jack landed beside him, pursing his mouth and quickly sketching the dragon while he was staying still.

“Why doesn’t he just… fly away?” Hiccup asked softly when he was finished with his sketch. Jack frowned; he had been wondering the same thing. The dragon’s wings were unharmed as far as he could see.

Hiccup tilted his head and hummed. “Ah.” He used his sleeve to wipe away part of his sketch, leaving the drawing-dragon with only one side of its tail fin. Jack glanced down at the real dragon to find that Hiccup was right; part of his tail was missing.

The dragon shook his head and tried again, jumping high into the air. He got good height, but now that Jack knew what to look for, it was obvious that the missing part of his tail threw him off course, sending him careening to the ground. He laid there, defeated, staring at the water of the lake. One of the mountain fish that inhabited the lake jumped, making the dragon’s ears perk up. He lunged, trying to snap one of the fish up, but they were too quick. The dragon huffed and turned, curling up and pointedly looking away from the offending water.

Hiccup chuckled quietly, setting his book down on the rock beside them. Jack looked over in time to see his pencil roll down the smooth face of the rock, dropping to the ground below with a clatter. The dragon’s ears rotated their direction and he looked up. Hiccup paused, looking back into curious green eyes. Neither side showed hostility, only interest, and Jack held his breath.

Hiccup kept the dragon’s gaze for a long moment, only broken by a short clap of thunder. It began to rain lightly, forcing Hiccup to scramble back up the rock face and duck into the short tunnel. “Come on, Jack,” he called. “It looks like it’s about to start pouring. Maybe we can get back to Berk before it does.”

Jack, however, was watching the dragon. He had narrowed his eyes when the rain started, looking around desperately. “Hang on,” Jack replied to Hiccup. “Give me a second…” He hopped off of the boulder, dropping down to the grotto floor. The dragon bristled, but Jack just shook his head and hurried towards the western wall. Glancing back at the dragon, he shoved at a loose section of stone until it gave way, rolling to the side. A small, natural cave was carved out of the stone. It was shallow, but the overhang provided enough protection from the weather. Jack had spent some of the worse nights curled up inside it, waiting for the rain and sleet to pass. He grinned back at the dragon before flying back up to join Hiccup.

One last glance back showed the dragon hesitantly approaching the cave, eyes narrowed in curious distrust. Jack chuckled and followed Hiccup through the trees.

*****

It was raining heavily by the time they reached Berk, much to Hiccup’s displeasure. Jack couldn’t help but laugh when Hiccup glared at him, hair plastered to his head and dripping wet. Hiccup rolled his eyes, but the corners of his mouth were turning up slightly, eyes crinkling in mirth. Jack grinned, padding behind Hiccup as they headed for the Great Hall. It was too late for Hiccup to cook for himself. Jack was a little excited to see the inside of the large building; he hadn’t been inside yet.

It really was as impressive as he had expected. The roof was high, tall enough that the light of the roaring fire in the hearth on the far wall barely reached it, only illuminating it dimly. Long, roughly hewn wooden tables dotted the hall. The villagers were free to come and go within a certain amount of time within meals to eat as they pleased. By the time Hiccup and Jack had arrived, there were only a few people left scattered around. The largest group consisted of Gobber and the other trainees, discussing that day’s lesson.

While Jack looked around in awe, Hiccup’s eyes landed on the other trainees and his smile fell. He approached the table slowly, where it looked like someone (most likely Gobber) had prepared him a plate and a drink.

“A part of training is knowing where you went wrong and learning from your mistakes,” Gobber boomed, looking over the trainees that were already seated. “Did anyone notice anything they did wrong today.”

Astrid looked over the rim of her cup. “My back flip was too loose and my spin kick was sloppy.”

“No, no, that was so you, Astrid,” Snotlout said, grinning at the blonde dreamily. Gobber shook his head.

“She’s right, you have to be hard on yourself.” Hiccup reached the table, only for Snotlout to smirk and shift in his seat, blocking Hiccup off. He merely sighed and grabbed his meal, heading for another table nearby. It was empty. Gobber watched him go. “Where did Hiccup go wrong today?”

“He showed up,” Tuffnut said with a snort.

“He’s never where he should be,” Astrid amended. Gobber nodded. Jack frowned.

“You want me to ice their noses?” he asked Hiccup, perching across the table from him and glaring over at the other trainees. Hiccup shook his head, but smiled slightly at Jack.

“Good, Astrid. Knowledge is the key in this. If you’re going to learn how to fight dragons, you have to know about them.” He slammed a large, leather-bound book down in front of the twins. “The dragon manual. Everything we know about every dragon we know of.” He glanced at the large door of the hall and nodded when a loud clap of thunder sounded. “No attacks tonight. Study up.” He headed for the door, ignoring the indignant sounds the trainees made.

“Wait, you mean read?” Tuffnut asked, looking outraged.

“While we’re still alive?” Ruffnut added, calling after Gobber with a frown.

Snotlout waited until Gobber stepped out of the door before snorting and standing up. “I’ll tell you what, you guys read, I’ll go kill stuff.”

Jack shook his head. “Really?”

Hiccup shrugged. “Reading isn’t exactly a common pastime for Vikings,” he murmured quietly so the others couldn’t hear him. With a sigh, he stood and crossed over to the other table. All of the trainees but Astrid had quickly headed for the door. “So, uh, I guess we can share…?”

Astrid pushed the book towards him. “Read it already,” she said sharply before standing to follow the others. Hiccup’s shoulders fell.

“Oh, alright. All, all mine, then. So I guess I’ll see you guys…” the door slammed shut. “…tomorrow.”

Jack propped his staff up against the table. “I’ll read it with you,” he said. Hiccup smiled sadly at him.

“Thanks, Jack.”

He fetched another candle to offset the dying fire. The last Viking left the hall with barely a glance at Hiccup, leaving him and Jack alone. Jack studied the carving on the front of the book.

“So, information on all different kinds of dragons is in here?” he asked.

Hiccup shrugged. “I’ve never, uh, been entrusted with it. I’m not sure what’s in here,” he admitted. He opened the first page. “Dragon classification,” he read aloud. “Strike Class. Fear Class. Mystery Class.”

Jack raised a brow. “Huh.” He floated over to sit beside Hiccup so he could see better. “Hey, I can read this.” He glanced over the words. “Thunderdrum,” he began to read aloud. “This dragon inhabits sea caves. It can produce a concussive sound that can kill a man at, uh, close range. I think that’s right?”

He glanced over to find Hiccup looking at him with hooded eyes. “Yeah, that’s what it says.”

“I can’t read the next part though,” Jack murmured, confused. “I can read a lot of it, but some I don’t know.”

Hiccup cleared his throat and read the line Jack was pointing to. “This dragon is extremely dangerous, kill on sight.”

“Oh.” Now Jack wasn’t sure he wanted to know what that line said. Hiccup flipped through the rest of the pages, reading snippets. Every dragon was paired with a description of the many ways it could kill or injure a person, followed by, ‘Extremely dangerous, kill on sight.’ Every single page featured the same warning, but lacked any useful information like what the dragons ate. Everything was focused on the kill.

Hiccup stopped at the last page, which was mostly blank. There was no illustration, and barely a few lines of text. “Night Fury,” Hiccup read. “Speed: unknown. Size: unknown. The unholy offspring of lightening and death itself. Your only chance: hide and pray it does not find you…”

Digging through his vest, Hiccup produced his book. He opened it to the sketch of the Night Fury from before and flopped it down on top of the useless page in the dragon manual. “That can’t be everything,” he mused, looking up at Jack. Jack frowned.

“That’s not everything,” he agreed. “There has to be more.”

They looked at the drawing. They were the only two people on Berk who knew how to identify it as a Night Fury.

Chapter Text

“So, I, uh, I happened to notice that the book had nothing on Night Furies. Is there another book or a sequel, maybe a little Night Fury pamphlet-?”

Hiccup ducked just in time to avoid a blast of fire aimed at his head, burning a hole into the wooden wall of the makeshift maze that had been erected in the training arena. Gobber rolled his eyes.

“Focus, Hiccup!” he shouted. “You’re not even trying!”

Jack ducked out of the way along with Hiccup, hooking his staff up over the wooden wall and hoisting himself up to perch on the top, balancing on his toes. “Sorry, but I have to agree with him,” he said, and received an eye-roll in return. The Nadder that Gobber had released earlier glanced up at Jack, eyes narrowing in confusion. “Uh, don’t mind me. I’m just watching,” Jack mumbled. The Nadder snorted at him and hurried around the next corner after Fishlegs.

That day’s training was different, and more difficult thanks to the wooden maze that the trainees had to shuffle their way through. Gobber was watching from above the arena, leaning against the railing and chuckling at the trainees’ frantic scrambling as they tried to avoid the dragon.

“Nadders are quick, and light on their feet,” Gobber declared, tracking said dragon’s progress with his eyes. “It’s your job to be quicker, and lighter.”

Jack had to abandon his perch on the wall as Fishlegs rounded the corner, closely followed by the Nadder, who slammed into the wall trying to keep up. Tired of chasing after the boy, it turned, sending spiked flying from its tail. Fishlegs cowered behind his shield.

“I am seriously beginning to question your teaching methods!”

Jack chuckled from where he was floating. “You have a point,” he agreed. It was crazy, turning the dragons loose on the trainees like Gobber was so fond of doing, but… from Jack’s point of view, it was easy to see how the trainees were already beginning to get faster in their reactions. Like the twins, for instance. They rounded a corner and ended up face-to-face with the Nadder. They held still, standing straight in front of it, where the eyes on the side of its head couldn’t see them. Gobber nodded happily.

“Every dragon has a blinds spot. Find it, hide in it, and strike.”

Ruffnut made a face and nudged her brother. “Ugh, do you ever bathe?”

“If you don’t like it, go get your own blind spot,” Tuffnut hissed back.

“How about I give you a blind spot?”

“Oh yeah?”

They bashed their heads together, completely ignoring the dragon in front of them. At least, until it opened its mouth to fire at them. They jumped to the side, running as fast as they could manage with their helmets still stuck together, and Gobber leaned his head in his hand with a huff.

“Blind spot, yes. Deaf spot, not so much.”

The twins ran past Hiccup, who had snuck his way back over to the wall beneath Gobber. Fishlegs wasn’t far behind, bumping into Hiccup slightly, though Hiccup didn’t seem to notice. He looked up at Gobber.

“So- so how would you go about sneaking up on a Night Fury?”

Jack hooked his staff on one of the chains that crisscrossed over the arena, feet pressed flat against the wall, where he could see Hiccup. “You’re very persistent, but, ah, maybe now isn’t the time?”

Hiccup scrunched his nose up at Jack before glancing at Gobber. The large Viking shrugged half-heartedly.

“No one’s ever seen one and lived to tell the tale. Now, get in there!”

Hiccup rolled his eyes and tried again. “I know, I know, but hypothetically speaking…”

“Hiccup, get down!” Astrid and Snotlout had finally caught up, crouching down against one edge of a wall. The Nadder was coming down the path, headed straight for them. Hiccup gripped his shield tightly, crouching with them. Astrid took a deep breath and rolled across the path to the other side, crawling next to the wall. Snotlout did the same, following behind Astrid closely. Hiccup tensed his shoulders and started to roll, only to fall flat when his shield caught against the rough stone floor and send him sprawling on his back. The Nadder turned a glare on him and he struggled to his feet, darting away.

The Nadder apparently had enough, giving an agitated roar before leaping up on top of the wooden maze. It jumped from wall to wall, wings fluttering in frustration as it tried to track the trainees. It caught sight of Astrid and honed in on her. The others ran as fast as they could, jumping and dodging as the maze began toppling over thanks to the Nadder’s angry flailing. Hiccup lingered, glancing up at Gobber.

“Has anyone ever seen one napping, or…?”

Goodness, that boy was persistent. Jack let go of his hold on the chains, dropping down from the wall to land beside Hiccup. “Maybe you should find some other time to ask,” he suggested, motioning to the walls falling in chaos around them.

“Hiccup!”

They both turned in time to see Astrid, who had climbed up on the walls to avoid the Nadder, jumping down towards Hiccup as the last stretch of the maze collapsed. Astrid hit Hiccup flying, landing in a tangled heap on the stone floor.

“Ooh, love on the battlefield,” Tuffnut cooed from his spot safely away from the dragon. Ruffnut rolled her eyes.

“She could do better.”

Jack glared at them. “Really? They could use some help, you know.”

Astrid’s axe was buried in Hiccup’s shield, stuck deep in the thick wood. She struggled to yank it out, smacking Hiccup in the face when he tried to help.

“Wait,” Hiccup pleaded as Astrid stood, pushing on his head with her foot and tugging on her axe handle. “Just let me- oof!” Jack’s eyes narrowed and he stepped forward.

The Nadder finally dug itself out of the rubble it had created and glared at Astrid, approaching quickly with bared teeth. Astrid gasped and tore Hiccup’s shield off of his arm, swinging it around to smash the Nadder’s head. It reeled dizzily, stumbling off to the other side of the arena, shaking its head vigorously to ward off what would no doubt be a massive headache later; Astrid had hit it hard enough to make the shield splinter into little pieces.

Jack knelt beside Hiccup. Several bruises were already beginning to darken on his face, one on his forehead in the shape of Astrid’s boot. Jack frowned, turning a glare on her when she whipped around and stalked over to Hiccup.

“Is this some kind of joke to you?” she demanded, looking down at Hiccup distastefully. “Our parents’ war is about to become ours.” She shoved her axe in his face, nearly nicking his cheek with the razor-sharp edge. “Figure out which side you’re on.”

Jack saw red at the way Hiccup had to crane his head back to avoid being cut. He stood, dropping his staff in favor of ripping the axe out of Astrid’s hands and tossing it away. “What is wrong with you?” he demanded, staring into her confused face. She frowned and walked through him to retrieve her axe, making him gasp and clutch his chest.

Hiccup pushed up on his elbows, reaching for Jack. Jack instinctively took his hand, helping him up to his feet. The other trainees were already headed for the entrance of the arena, not sparing Hiccup another glance. Jack’s blood boiled and he scooped his staff up angrily. Hiccup touched his elbow, making him turn sharply.

“Thanks,” Hiccup said quietly, straightening Jack’s cloak from the twisted position it had ended up in after all of the jumping and racing around. Jack’s eyes softened, anger fading some.

“You’re welcome.”

*****

“What are you doing, Hiccup?”

Hiccup walked forward slowly, hiding behind a faded wooden shield. He had a fish in one hand, holding it tightly as he peered over the top of the shield.

“Do you see him?” Hiccup hissed. Jack peered out from behind him.

“Nope. But, uh, it’s kind of hard to see over the shield.”

“I don’t want to take any chances-oof!” Hiccup stumbled as the shield caught against the rough stone of the wall, wedging tightly in the entrance. Hiccup ducked beneath it, turning to tug on it futilely. Jack chuckled when Hiccup huffed, knocking his fist against the wood and turning to look out over the grotto. Jack hopped over the shield beside Hiccup.

“What’s your plan?”

Hiccup shrugged. “I don’t know. Feed him and hope he doesn’t decide that I look tastier than the fish?”

“Great plan. Really sounds safe.”

“I don’t see you coming up with something… better…”

They turned when a loud rumbling sounded behind them. The dragon was perched on the top of a boulder, looking down at them. He climbed down, landing on the grass with a thump, eyeing them distrustfully.

Hiccup hesitantly took a step forward, holding the fish out in view. Jack crouched, ready to jump at the slightest inclination of violence to protect Hiccup. The dragon arched his back, plodding his way towards Hiccup. He opened his mouth when the fish was in range, but stopped and glared at Hiccup’s side. Jack gripped his staff tighter as Hiccup shifted his vest to the side, revealing a small dagger. He unhooked it and dropped it, the dragon’s eyes trained on his every movement. Still not satisfied, the dragon motioned towards the lake. Hiccup kicked the dagger into the water, well out of reach as it sank to the depths.

Finally, the dragon seemed satisfied and sat, looking from Hiccup to Jack curiously. Hiccup tried offering the fish again, and the dragon leaned closer, opening his mouth. Hiccup halfway smiled.

“Toothless? Huh, I could’ve sworn you had…”

Sharp, white teeth extracted out of the dragon’s gums and he lunged forwards, grabbing the fish and tossing it up to swallow whole. Hiccup pulled his hand back, eyes widening.

“…teeth.”

The dragon licked his lips, clearly enjoying the aftertaste of the fish. At Hiccup’s voice he looked at the human, tilting his head lightly. He began walking towards Hiccup, eyes narrowing. Jack’s mouth tightened and he pointed his staff at the dragon.

“Hic, you want me to…?”

Hiccup shook his head. “No.” The dragon continued advancing on him, making him scramble backwards until his back hit the solid stone of the wall. “I- I, uh, don’t have any more,” Hiccup told the dragon, ducking down and dropping back on his heels.

“If he doesn’t stop, I’m going to do it for him,” Jack warned. The dragon looked over his shoulder at Jack and snorted before looking back at Hiccup. His throat began constricting, making the most awful noise Jack had ever heard. He coughed, and the lower half of the fish he had just eaten dropped into Hiccup’s lap in a pool of thick dragon spit. Jack was so shocked he laughed, standing up from his crouched position in disbelieve.

“Eugh, that’s…” Hiccup shuddered, scrunching his nose at the chuck of fish. The dragon sat back on haunches, staring at Hiccup. The boy grimaced, looking at the dragon unsurely. The dragon motioned to the fish, licking his lips. Hiccup blanched. “Oh, oh, that’s…” He picked the fish up and winced at the feel. Jack couldn’t help but snort at the absurdity of the situation, earning him an unamused glare.

“It’s not nice to refuse a gift,” Jack teased. Hiccup ignored him, reluctantly lifting the fish to his mouth and taking a much larger bite than Jack would have forced himself to do.

The dragon made a questioning noise, looking at the fish. Hiccup, cheeks still round with the large bite, nodded encouragingly. The dragon wiggled a little and made a swallowing motion. Hiccup’s shoulders drooped and he made a distressed noise. Jack shuddered for him as he swallowed thickly, looking queasy as the fish slid down his throat. The dragon wiggled again, and Hiccup gave him a crooked smile.

As Jack watched, the dragon tried to copy Hiccup’s expression, forcing one side of his mouth to curl up before doing the same with the other side to make a lopsided smile. Hiccup glanced at Jack and chuckled, placing the nasty fish aside and slowly standing. He held his hand out towards the dragon, carefully making as if to touch his nose. The dragon growled, baring his teeth, and darted away to the other side of the lake. He shook his head, burning a round spot in the grass and settling down on it.

Hiccup turned to Jack, breathing fast. “Did you see that?”

Jack grinned. “I think you were just part of the first peaceful meal shared between a human and a dragon.”

“I know!” Hiccup glanced over at the dragon and grinned. “I can’t believe it.” He started making his way around the lake, headed for the dragon. Jack flew over the water, studying the dragon all curled up on its makeshift bed. One of the dragon’s ears flickered and he looked up, watching Jack fly with longing in his eyes. He tracked Jack overhead, turning towards the water and noticing Hiccup sitting there. The Viking smiled a little and waved, but the dragon just rolled his eyes and turned away, opening his tailfin to block Hiccup’s view of his face.

Jack perched above them in the tree, watching as Hiccup quietly scooted closer and closer to the dragon, reaching for his tail. His fingers were only a short distance away from the dragon’s skin when he snapped his tailfin shut, giving Hiccup an unimpressed look. Hiccup stood quickly and turned, walking away as the dragon snorted and headed in the opposite direction. Jack flew down beside Hiccup, glancing back at the dragon’s retreating form.

“Give it some time,” he said, nudging Hiccup with his shoulder. “He just needs to learn that he can trust you.”

Hiccup laughed weakly. “I’m just surprised he hasn’t already tried to bite my head off.”

*****

“I think I’m going to call him Toothless.”

They had lingered at the grotto throughout the day, watching the dragon and spending some time skipping rocks across the lake. They were still in the grotto as the sun began its descent, casting long purple shadows across the ground and over the rock walls. Jack had decided to get a head start on spreading his frost, tapping his staff to the large shadows that spilled across the rock, depositing a thin layer of ice safely out of the sun. It wasn’t winter yet, but it was close enough that his frost could hold overnight and sparkle in the morning sun before it got too hot and melted. Hiccup watched him from a seat on a medium sized rock, admiring the patterns. Jack looked down at his words.

“Toothless?”

The dragon in question was asleep, hanging by his tail from a decent sized tree where Hiccup couldn’t reach him.

“Yeah. Since most of the time he doesn’t have teeth.”

Jack tapped another spot, making ice bloom. “That’s an… unusual name.”

“Viking tradition,” Hiccup explained. “For some reason, parents think that a horrible name will scare off gnomes and trolls. Like our charming Viking demeanor wouldn’t,” he mumbled.

“Is that how you got stuck with Hiccup?” Jack asked teasingly. Hiccup nodded.

“Pretty much, yeah.”

Jack continued spreading his ice, floating back and forth as he followed the shadows. Hiccup leaned down and picked up a knobby stick, starting a doodle in the loose dirt at his feet. Jack glanced down and saw it become the basic shape of Toothless’ face.

He wasn’t the only one, apparently, as Toothless had silently come up behind Hiccup, watching him draw in the dirt with interest. Hiccup continued his drawing, glancing at Toothless out of the corner of his eye. Jack dropped down on a tall rock, perching where he could watch as Toothless stood and lumbered away. A loud ripping sound filled the air as the dragon gripped a young sapling in his teeth and pulled it up out of the ground.

Toothless returned to Hiccup’s side, looking proud of the small tree in his mouth. He pressed one end to the ground and began to twirl, dragging deep lines in the dirt. He walked all around Hiccup, smacking the boy in the back of the head with his tree but continuing on, glancing at Hiccup as he went. Jack leaned against his staff and chuckled when Toothless finished and looked at his work proudly. The lines he had made surrounded Hiccup in intricate swirls and crisscrossing patterns. Hiccup stood, spinning around to look at them all.

One booted foot stepped on a line and Toothless growled, making Hiccup jump and raise his foot. Toothless stopped growling as soon as Hiccup’s foot was up. Tilting his head, Hiccup touched his foot to the line and picked it up again, only to get the same reaction. He brought his foot down on the other side of the line instead and Toothless perked up. Hiccup smiled at him before looking down to concentrate.

He began stepping around the lines, biting his lip as he moved. He was careful not to step on any of the lines, losing himself in his movements. Toothless watched him, pupils widening as he tracked Hiccup’s progress through the lines. He was looking at Hiccup in some sort of awe, watching the small human the way he probably hadn’t ever paid attention to a human before.

Hiccup’s movements, for once, were not clumsy or hesitant. He flowed with the lines, confidence growing with every step. The corners of his mouth began to turn up slightly, and his shoulders relaxed. He relaxed, all of his worry melting away. The only thing he focused on was the lines, the movements… the dance. Because, Jack realized, that’s what Hiccup was doing. He was dancing. It wasn’t a dance anyone had ever seen, but it was a dance.

Jack was pretty sure his expression matched Toothless as he watched Hiccup flow and lose himself in the moment.

Hiccup continued on, following the lines to the very edge. He only stopped when he felt warmth on his back and Toothless’ breath ruffled his hair. He turned, looking at the dragon who was only a step away. Biting his lip, Hiccup reached out for Toothless. The dragon growled lightly, and Hiccup pulled back some. Determination lit his eyes and he dropped his head, extending his arm out. His palm was mere inches away from Toothless’ snout, but he held it still. Toothless stared at his hand, head bobbing indecisively.

Finally, Toothless closed the gap, pressing his nose into Hiccup’s palm. Hiccup flinched, expecting a bite that never came. Toothless held against him for a long moment before pulling back. He glanced at Hiccup’s hand and huffed before jumping away. Hiccup watched him go, mouth hanging open slightly.

Hiccup began to smile softly, and Jack felt himself do the same.

Chapter Text

That night, Gobber called all the trainees up to one of the towers that overlooked the coastline, where the warriors of Berk could stand sentry, watching for any signs of impending attacks. As Gobber explained, all of the qualified Vikings shared lookout duty. The nights were designated out so that no one had to work two times in a row; every sentry was guaranteed to be sharp and well-rested to prevent mishaps. The entire village could be burnt to the ground at once if there wasn’t enough warning. Even a minute made a difference when preparing for an attack.

Gobber had related all of that information to the trainees as they sat around a blazing fire, the scent of their slowly roasting supper wafting around them as they waited for it to cook. One pair of sentries had given their tower to Gobber for the lesson, going off to assist the other sentries while the kids were there.

Once the food was ready, Gobber sat down heavily, poking his chicken with a handy hook on his prosthetic. Heh, handy.

Jack might have said that to Hiccup, who had to fight back a snort and ended up making a choking sound that had Tuffnut glancing at him with narrowed eyes.

Gobber whacked Hiccup on the back, nearly knocking him off of his seat, before taking a big bite of chicken. “You always have to pay attention on the job,” he said, pointing at the trainees. “It only takes one moment. Dragons are fast, and smart.” He took another bite. “I was first starting out, on my very first night of sentry duty. I didn’t see the dragons in time, and one snuck up on me. With one twist, he took my hand and swallowed it whole.” He lost his solemn air, and grinned, making the trainees’ shoulders relax from the tense position they had taken at his words. “I saw the look on his face. I was delicious! He must have passed the word along, because it wasn’t a month before another one took my leg.”

Fishlegs frowned, brow furrowing as he looked down at his own chicken. “Isn’t it weird to think that your hand was inside a dragon?” he asked, glancing up to see that the others were staring at him. “Like, if you were still in control of it, you could have killed the dragon from the inside,” he elaborated. Astrid, who was sitting beside him, made a face.

“Hey, he has a point,” Jack said from his spot beside Hiccup. They were alone on one of the wooden benches that circled the fire; no one would have chosen to sit by Hiccup voluntarily other than Fishlegs, and when he tried he had actually sat in Jack. The cold had made him shiver and shift over beside Astrid, shooting Hiccup an apologetic look. After wheezing, Jack had felt a surge of affection for Fishlegs; he wasn’t as bad as the others when it came to Hiccup.

Hiccup glanced at Jack, one corner of his mouth turning up slightly to show that he agreed.

Snotlout growled, drawing everyone’s eyes to him. “I swear, I’m so angry right now,” he said, looking at Gobber. “I’ll avenge your beautiful hand and your beautiful foot!” he declared. “I’ll chop off the legs of every dragon I fight. With my face!”

Jack snorted in disbelief. “There’s no way this guy’s for real.” Hiccup nudged Jack’s side, eyes sparkling with laughter he had to hold back as he reached for his fish- perfectly cooked and making Jack’s mouth water. Hiccup smirked and snuck him a piece, which he promptly popped in his mouth.

“Uh, uh, um,” Gobber hummed, ripping the leg off of his chicken and taking a bite. “It’s the wings and the tails you really want. If it can’t fly, it can’t get away.” He looked around at the trainees knowingly. “A downed dragon is a dead dragon.”

A sharp intake of breath, only audible to Jack, came from Hiccup. He glanced over at the spirit out of the corner of his eye. They were both thinking the same thing.

Toothless couldn’t fly.

Gobber yawned widely, stretching and standing. “Alright, I’m off to bed. You should be too. Tomorrow we get to the big boys…” Hiccup bit his lip and stood, sneaking behind the other trainees and over to the stairs. Jack grabbed his staff and followed, flying behind Hiccup as he made his way down towards the village. “…Monstrous Nightmare. But who will win the honor of killing it?” Gobber’s voice followed them, until it became too distant to really understand. No one seemed to notice Hiccup’s absence.

“Where are we going?” Jack asked, once they were out of earshot and Hiccup could reply.

“The workshop. Gobber got me thinking…”

“Yeah?”

“Toothless can’t fly,” Hiccup said, pushing the heavy wooden door of the workshop open and slipping inside. “As far as I can tell, he’s just missing that one fin.” Jack hummed, urging him to continue. “What if he had a replacement? Gobber works just fine with a fake hand and leg.” Hiccup pulled his sketchbook out of his vest, dropping it on the table in his little corner of the shop. It fell open to the drawing of Toothless, with one of the tailfins smudged out. Hiccup grabbed one of the various charcoal pieces that littered the tabletop and quickly redrew the fin. “If Gobber can do it, why can’t Toothless?”

He turned to Jack, grinning crookedly. Jack nodded. “Makes sense. What do we need to do?”

Hiccup grinned.

“First, we need soft leather…”

*****

“Oh, Toothless?” Hiccup’s voice echoed over the grotto. Toothless perked up, wiggling happily. Hiccup nodded. “I brought breakfast. Some salmon, some nice Icelandic cod, and a whole smoked eel….” He dropped the woven basket he had been carrying, kicking it over to spill out a whole pile of fish.

“Ugh,” Jack said, jumping as a fish landed on his foot. He kicked it away and Toothless snatched it up, swallowing it and giving Jack a gummy grin. “Yeah, I hope you enjoyed it.”

Toothless ignored him, stepping forward to poke around in the pile of fish. Hiccup gripped the large contraption in his hands close and began sneaking around Toothless.

Toothless growled, making both boys jump. He backed up, baring his teeth. Hiccup followed his line of sight and picked up a long eel. Toothless leapt back, hissing at it. Hiccup quickly threw it away.

“Okay, okay! It’s gone.”

Toothless snorted, glaring over at the eel before returning to his fish, giving it a poke with a suspicious look like it might transform into an eel if he tried to take a bite. Hiccup absentmindedly rubbed his hand on his shirt.

“Yeah, I don’t like eel either,” he said, glancing at Jack. Jack shrugged.

Hiccup waited until Toothless finally began eating again to head towards the dragon’s tail. Jack hesitated before following; Toothless was properly distracted by the fish, too absorbed to care. Hiccup knelt beside Toothless’ tail, laying the prosthetic they had spent a large part of the previous night making. Jack crouched, watching Hiccup push it closer to the tail, looking it over critically.

“Think it will fit?” Jack asked. Hiccup nodded without looking up.

“I think so, I just have to…” He tried to wrap the strap around Toothless’ tail, but the dragon shifted at the touch. He was still mostly distracted by the fish, so Hiccup turned around, straddling the tail to hold it still. He quickly tightened the strap around the tail, tying it tight. “Hmm,” he hummed, nodding. “It fits… looks good…”

“Great!” Jack grinned. Now they just had to test it…

Jack caught movement out of the corner of his eye and turned, just in time to see Toothless’ wings extend out. “Hic-!”

Toothless pushed off, strong wings pumping in the air. Hiccup yelped, gripping tight to the dragon’s tail as hard as he could. Jack jumped, following them, but Toothless was fast and he had a head start. “Hiccup!”

Toothless made a surprised noise and began to waver in the air, quickly descending. Jack sped up, trying to reach them. Hiccup frowned and reached for the prosthetic, which was hanging limply. With a grunt, Hiccup snapped it open, and Toothless crowed in triumph, immediately gaining strength and flying straight up out of the grotto.

“It’s working! Yes!” Hiccup shouted gleefully. Jack shot up after him, flying slightly behind Toothless just in case he needed to act fast. Toothless flew strong, though, spinning through the air before dropping back down to the grotto. He skimmed over the water, looking down at his reflection. Jack laughed, darting after him, but Toothless frowned. He glanced back, suddenly realizing that Hiccup was still hanging onto his tail. He banked sharply, whipping his tail out and sending Hiccup flying. The Viking hit the water and bounced before sinking. Without him to hold the prosthetic open, Toothless came crashing down into the water.

Jack sped up, hurrying towards Hiccup with his heart pounding strangely. Hiccup popped back up out of the water with a grin, and Jack sighed in relief. Hiccup looked up at him, jumping out of the water a little.

“It works!” he called. “Yeah!”

Jack ginned, giddy with relief. “Yeah. It works.” He grabbed Hiccup, gripping beneath his arms and lifting him out of the water. Hiccup was nearly squirming; he was eagerly glancing at Toothless. The dragon pulled himself out of the water as Jack dropped Hiccup to his feet gently on the bank. Hiccup slipped his vest off, wringing the water out of it and setting it out to dry in the sun.

“That was amazing! I can’t believe it worked!”

Jack rolled his eyes. “You made it, of course it worked.”

Hiccup smiled that crooked smile of his and nudged Jack with a wet shoulder. Jack made a face, pretending to be offended. “Hey! Easy with the cloak.” He brushed said cloak free of imaginary dirt.

“Oh yeah?” Hiccup grinned mischievously and tackled Jack, draping his soaking torso over Jack’s back. Jack groaned, making him laugh. Toothless glanced over at them and snorted, haughtily stretching out in the sun to dry himself off. That had Jack and Hiccup laughing even louder. Hiccup nearly fell from the force of his chuckles, so Jack cupped the back of his knees and hoisted him higher on his back. Hiccup instinctively wrapped his arms around Jack’s neck, and Jack grinned, pushing off the ground to float a little. Hiccup gasped, looking down at Jack’s feet hovering a few inches over the dirt.

“Wow…”

Jack chuckled and landed again, looking over his shoulder at Hiccup. “I can hover a bit without my staff. It’s the wind.”

Hiccup shook his head fondly. “That’s amazing.” He wiggled out of Jack’s hold and slid down, feet dropping to the ground with a thump.

Jack turned, but Hiccup didn’t have his footing yet and stumbled, arms flying out. He grabbed onto Jack, trying to steady himself, and a loud ripping sound filled the air. Toothless’ ears perked at the sound, and Hiccup winced.

“Sorry,” he said quickly, letting go of Jack… and peeling away half of Jack’s cloak with his hand. “Oh. Oh no. Jack, I didn’t mean to, I swear I-”

Jack cut into Hiccup’s babbling, shaking his head. “It’s alright,” he said. He tugged the rest of the cloak off and folded it up. “It was an accident. This thing’s been through a lot anyway.” He ignored the slight pang in his chest as he sat the ruined cloak aside. It had been one of the few things he had on him when he first woke up, along with his staff and other clothes. He had been careful with the soft, worn leather, but it really was only a matter of time until it began to fall apart. “It was getting old.”

Hiccup looked from Jack to the cloak, clearly upset. “I know, but I still did it…” He frowned. “I’m sorry, I’ll make it up to you. I promise.”

His eyes were so earnest, his tone so apologetic, that Jack had to nod. “Alright, okay.” He ruffled Hiccup’s hair lightly, hating to see him so distraught. Hiccup’s face was made for smiling, his mouth for turning up crookedly with shy happiness.

Hiccup nodded, looking relieved. “I really will make it up to you.”

Jack threw his arm around Hiccup’s shoulders and tugged him closer, ruffling his hair again and earning a teasing glare. “I know you will.” He grinned. “So, what do you think about flying?”

Toothless rolled his eyes as Hiccup began to talk at a fast pace, voice rising excitedly and Jack hanging on to every word, looking awestruck at each genuine smile that crossed Hiccup’s face as he spoke.

Chapter Text

“Today is all about teamwork.”

Two thick, heavy wooden doors burst open on the far side of the arena. A green fog issued out of the entrance, followed by a rumbling growl. Gobber paced along the edge of the cloud, looking at the trainees, who were standing in pairs. Each was gripping a wooden bucket filled with water.

“Now, a wet dragon head can’t light its fire. The Zippleback is extra tricky,” Gobber declared. “One head breathes the gas, and the other lights it. You have to know which is which.”

The trainees tensed as a wave of the gas passed over them. From Jack’s perch, it was easy to see them, but down on the ground visibility was next to nothing. Hiccup had partnered with Fishlegs, of course, and the larger boy was whirling around in terror.

“Razor sharp serrated teeth,” Jack heard him say. “Injects venom for predigesting. Prefers ambush attack, crushing its victims in-”

Hiccup shoved Fishlegs’ arm with his shoulder, though Fishlegs didn’t even stumble. “Will you please stop that?!” Hiccup demanded. Jack chuckled, earning a glare from Hiccup, who heard him.

Across the arena, Snotlout and Tuffnut were standing back-to-back. Snotlout grinned and nudged Tuffnut. “If that dragon shows either of its faces, I’ll- There!” He threw the water from his bucket through the fog, and received shouts of protest in return.

“Hey, it’s us, idiot!” Ruffnut yelped, stepping out of the gloom and glaring at her brother. Astrid was beside her, looking unimpressed. Tuffnut chuckled.

“Man, you’re butts are getting bigger,” he said with a dopey grin. “We thought you were a dragon.” Jack winced.

“Probably not a good idea…”

Snotlout laughed at Tuffnut’s words, but stopped when he saw Astrid stalking towards him. “Uh, not that there’s anything wrong with a, a-” he fumbled for a second before grinning, “-dragonesque figure.”

He had a second to look proud of himself before Astrid’s fist connected with his face. “Serves you right,” Jack said as Ruffnut threw her bucket at her brother’s head, knocking him down on the stone floor of the arena.

Jack glanced back at Hiccup to narrate what he had just seen, but Tuffnut’s yelp caught his attention and he looked back just in time to see Tuffnut’s flailing feet disappear into the green gas. A long, whipcord tail swept out, knocking Astrid and Ruffnut’s feet from beneath them. The gas was beginning to clear, and Tuffnut reappeared, running away from the spot he had disappeared at.

“I’m hurt! Oh, I am very much hurt!”

Fishlegs peered through the dissipating fog, biting his lip. “Chances of survival are dwindling into single digits now.” He jumped as one dragon head, bright green with red patterned scales, snaked out of the gas towards him. Quickly, he doused it with water, looking happy for one moment. His shoulders drooped when the dragon opened its mouth and a smaller wave of gas wafted out. “Oh.” He chuckled worriedly. “Wrong head.”

The dragon roared, causing Fishlegs to drop his bucket and run. The second head came out to join the first, and the dragon flapped its wings, clearing away the rest of the gas so it could see Hiccup, the only trainee left standing in the middle of the arena. Jack gripped the chain he was perched on tightly, watching intently.

Hiccup feebly tossed water towards the head that was sparking, though it fell short less than halfway. The dragon looked down at him unimpressed, and he sighed. “Oh, come on.”

The dragon roared, wings flaring out and displaying the bright warning colors that were trademarks of the poisonous dragons like the Zippleback. It lunged, knocking Hiccup down. Gobber, who had been watching in silence until then, started forward. “Hiccup!”

Jack grinned as Gobber stopped short, watching in awe as Hiccup stood, thrusting his hands towards the Zippleback and causing the dragon to take a step backwards towards its stable.

“Back!” Hiccup shouted, advancing on the fleeing dragon. “Back! N-now don’t you make me tell you again.” He pushed the dragon back to where it had come out of. “That’s right, back to your cage.” The dragon cowered in the far corner of its stable, hissing as Hiccup sneaked his vest open and revealed the bright yellow stripes of an eel. He tossed it towards the dragon before anyone could see it. “Now think about what you’ve done.”

With a mighty shove, Hiccup closed the doors on the dragon and slammed the lock down, bolting it in place. Jack floated down next to him, grinning as he turned to look at the others. They were staring, and Snotlout even dropped his bucket. Hiccup waved a little.

“Okay, so, uh, we’re done? I’ve got, uh, some things I need to, uh, yep.” He pointed towards the exit. “Well, s-see you tomorrow.” He hurried out of the arena, Jack close on his heels. They made it halfway to the workshop before they had to duck between two buildings so they could laugh. Jack leaned on Hiccup, sides aching from laughter.

“Did you see their faces?” he crowed, making Hiccup grin sheepishly.

“That felt good,” he admitted, freckled cheeks flushing a little. Jack nudged him.

“It felt good just to watch.”

Hiccup grabbed Jack’s arm and tugged. “Come on, I need to get to the workshop.”

Jack followed obligingly, letting Hiccup keep his hold on Jack’s sleeve as they walked. “What’s the rush? Got something you need to do.”

“I think… I’m going to fix up a saddle.” Hiccup entered the workshop and immediately lit the forge so it could heat up. “Toothless can’t fly on his own; someone has to work the tailfin. But I can’t hold on myself.” He opened a crate beside his desk and pulled out several strips of stiff leather. “I need something to hold onto.”

*****

Jack didn’t know how to work leather.

He had quickly picked up working with the forge, helping Hiccup heat the metal, roughly shaping it for him and then turning it over so Hiccup could fine tune it. Jack pulled nails, coaxing them from the rough wood of worn shields for Hiccup to repurpose into something more useful. He learned how to keep the fire going, and had gotten pretty good at keeping it the right temperature. Working with his hands seemed to come natural to Jack, and he enjoyed helping Hiccup.

Leather, though, seemed to completely baffle Jack’s hands.

“I don’t think I’ll be much help with this,” he admitted, looking at Hiccup. Hiccup glanced at the twisted scrap in Jack’s hands and chuckled lightly.

“I think you’re right.” He rolled his shoulders, stretching them out. “You helped a lot with the buckles though.”

Jack shrugged and put the mangled strip of leather down. Hiccup smiled indulgently and crossed over to stand by him. Jack could practically feel the heat rolling off of him and quickly looked away, trying not to blush.

When Jack blushed, he blushed frost. Icy tendrils bloomed over his cheeks, pale at first but thickening the deeper the blush went. If he blushed too heavily, the frost would be thick enough to see.

He had never had the need to blush before Hiccup.

Hiccup flexed his fingers, working the stiffness out of them, and shrugged a little. “I’ve got the leather. Once it’s heated up, the rest of the saddle will come together quickly.” He looked up at Jack. “Why don’t you go ahead? Toothless is probably waiting.” He chuckled. “I bet if you brought him some fish he’d be your friend forever.”

Jack snorted at that. Toothless did love his food. “Sure, I’ll take him some.”

“I’ll be there as soon as I’m done with this. I want to try it out before I finalize it.”

“I’ll tell Toothless,” Jack promised. Hiccup gave him another smile before going back to work. Jack watched him for a moment, and then headed out, grabbing his staff from beside the door.

His blush finally melted when he fetched a load of fish for Toothless, making a face at the slimy sound they made as they flopped into the basket.

“You better be thankful, Toothless,” Jack grumbled as he hoisted the basket over his shoulder and took off towards the grotto.

*****

It was early evening by the time Hiccup rounded the corner, stepping into the grotto with a large bundle in his arms. Toothless was stretched out in the sun, sleepily soaking in the warmth. Jack had sat beside him, leaning against his broad flank and drawing tiny patterns of frost over the ground, watching the ice melt in the sun. They both looked up when they heard Hiccup’s footsteps.

“Did you get it finished?” Jack asked, hopping up on his feet smoothly. Hiccup placed the bundle down on a rock.

“I think so. It’s ready to try out, at least.”

He untied the bundle, opening the rope and revealing a dark brown, leather saddle. Toothless perked up, ears pointing forwards, as Hiccup lifted the saddle. The buckles jangled against each other, and Toothless was up on his feet, darting away.

“Hey!” Hiccup ran after him, only to have the dragon dodge and go running back the other way, sticking his tongue out and making Jack double over in midair with laughter.

*****

The first flight went well… mostly. Toothless skimmed over the water of the pond and around the grotto, sticking close to the ground just in case. Hiccup had attached a rope to the tailfin and strung it up to his hand, where he could direct it as they flew.

Toothless was looking smug, increasing speed. Jack followed beside them, watching as Hiccup learned how to adjust the fin to keep them in the air.

Which was good, because he was close enough to catch Hiccup out of the air when the Viking tugged on the rope too hard and sent himself flying as Toothless banked sharply.

*****

By the next morning, Hiccup had fashioned a thick cord and belt, which he wiggled over his head and down to his waist. The cord was attached to a hook on the saddle, which helped Hiccup keep his balance so Toothless could make sharper turns.

That time, they decided to go a little further outside of the grove. Jack scouted out a nice clearing in the forest, where they could make an emergency landing if needed, and led them there. The rope that controlled the tailfin was attached to Hiccup’s ankle, giving him better control of it and allowing him to hang on with both hands.

The quick descent Toothless made startled both Hiccup and Jack, but Hiccup managed to hang on until they landed. He stumbled through thick, waist-high grass, before finally catching his footing. Jack landed just in time to see Toothless roll on his back, making a loud purr and rubbing his face into the thick grass.

*****

On a whim, Hiccup brought some of the strange grass with him to training later that day. The Gronkle was grumpy as usual, stalking the trainees as they ducked behind makeshift walls and tried to sneak up on it. Hiccup tripped, catching its attention, and gave up trying to hide. The Gronkle rushed towards him, but stopped when he put his hand up, dropping onto its stomach and wagging its stubby tail.

Jack cheered when the Gronkle followed the little tuft of dragon nip, rolling over on its side and happily giving up.

*****

The next time Hiccup managed to get away from the other trainees and their questions about his sudden increase in dragon wrangling skills, it was too windy for Toothless to fly safely. Instead, Jack fetched a long length of rope for them. With Toothless loosely tied to a stump that sat on the edge of a rocky cliff, Hiccup practiced working the tailfin into different positions, writing down what position did what. He had fashioned a stirrup of sorts that connected to the tailfin via a thick cord. Hiccup could push the stirrup up and down, and the fin would respond accordingly.

Hiccup beamed proudly at the praise Jack gave him when he explained the contraption. Jack might have blushed, but the frost didn’t show up well in the dim light of the morning sun.

Jack stood on the end of the cliff, asking the wind to work with Hiccup. The wind listened for a while, but even Jack could only ask her to comply for so long. The wild in her nature got the better of her, and a large gust caught Toothless’ outstretched wings, snapping the rope and sending Toothless flying backwards into a bunch of trees. Hiccup rubbed his head from where he had fallen off, but jerked when Toothless stood.

“Oh, come on,” Hiccup grumbled, tugging at the cord that kept him in the saddle. The fall had bent the hook over, making it impossible to get loose. The metal was strong, too strong to bend without the proper tools.

*****

“Sentry!” Jack hissed. Hiccup and Toothless quickly ducked between two buildings, Toothless blending in with the shadows. The sentry nodded a greeting at Hiccup and carried on, not giving the young Viking a second look. Jack sighed in relief. “Okay, coast is clear.”

Getting Toothless inside the workshop was easy, but keeping him still was not. He managed to knock over a few buckets, making Jack wince and peer out of the window worriedly. Hiccup renewed his efforts to straighten the metal.

“Hiccup?”

Toothless perked up, and Hiccup’s eyes widened. Jack peered between the crack of the shutters, seeing a blonde hair just outside the wide window.

Hiccup pushed the shutters open and hopped out, quickly closing them behind him and blocking Toothless from sight. The hook was still bent, so Jack went to work while Hiccup dealt with whoever was out there.

“Astrid, hi. Hi Astrid. Hi,” Hiccup babbled. Jack could practically feel Astrid roll her eyes.

“I normally don’t care what other people do,” she said, “but you’re acting weird.”

Toothless’ ears perked up and he turned to look out of the open door. A few sheep from the tribe’s herd were out there, grazing in the dark. Toothless grinned that gummy smile of his and made a move towards them. “Stop that!” Jack hissed as the cord tugged Hiccup’s waist.

“Well, weirder,” Astrid amended. Toothless struggled to head for the sheep. Jack narrowed his eyes and just tugged Hiccup inside the window, shoving him on Toothless’ back and sending them out of the door before Astrid could wrench the shutters open and look. Jack grabbed the necessary tools and followed them out, back into the safety of the forest.

*****

Hiccup might not have noticed, too preoccupied with balancing time with Toothless and avoiding giving anything away that might make the other trainees suspicious about where he was getting information, but Jack clearly saw Astrid growing more and more disgruntled with his sudden ‘skill.’ She was used to being the best, and from everyone else’s point of view, Hiccup was quickly rising above her. They didn’t seem to realize that everything Hiccup did was peaceful; he didn’t use any violence, but whispers still started that he was in the running for winning the contest in training.

The day after Hiccup had used the light trick to corral a Terrible Terror back into its pen without touching it, he and Jack stumbled upon Astrid in the forest, training with her axe. She and Hiccup stared for a moment before Hiccup walked off without another word.

Astrid tried to follow Hiccup, and Jack lingered behind, but in the end the blonde lost track of Hiccup. The way she stared at the thick underbrush, gripping her axe handle tightly, Jack knew that they’d have to be careful. She was growing suspicious.

She couldn’t learn about Toothless.

Chapter Text

The saddle took several more days’ worth of work. After training was over for the day, Hiccup would sneak away to the grotto and roll the stone cover away from the small cave carved out of the wall, where he had taken to storing the saddle and other equipment he needed for flight. Toothless had quickly figured out what Hiccup was meaning to do by riding him, and would eagerly bound over to Hiccup, wiggling like an excited lamb.

Hiccup spent his evenings making adjustments to the saddle, working in the shop long after the other villagers had gone to bed to fix or tweak whatever aspect of the saddle he had found needed changing in that morning’s small flight.

Sometimes, Jack would help Hiccup with the simple things. When it came down to leatherwork, though, Jack would head back down to the grotto to hang around Toothless, sitting with his back pressed against the dragon’s side or showing off his frost and getting demonstrations of Toothless’ fire in return. Sometimes, they would hide when they heard Hiccup approaching, jumping out at him and tackling him with mischievous giggles. The unimpressed looks they’d get in return would only make them laugh harder, and it would be impossible for Hiccup to hold back a smile.

*****

“I think it’s time,” Hiccup said one afternoon, after he and Toothless had made several beautiful circles around the grotto without a hitch, landing with triumphant grins on their faces. Jack looked up from where he was reclining, watching Hiccup fiddle with the saddle. Toothless had jumped around joyfully after Hiccup had undone it, looking excited and pleased with himself and Hiccup. He was currently napping, leaving Jack and Hiccup to speak alone quietly.

“Time?” Jack repeated. “For what?”

“A flight. A real one,” Hiccup clarified, pointing up into the open sky and making a circling motion with his hand. “There’s no more I can really do. The saddle’s as good as it’s going to get without real testing. I’ve worked out the positions of the tailfin.”

Jack nodded, sitting up to look at Hiccup better. “You would know better than anyone whether or not you’re ready.”

Hiccup dropped his head, smiling down at his hands.

“Let me come with you,” Jack requested.

“Like I could tell you no?” Hiccup asked, rolling his eyes. Jack smirked.

“You could. Whether or not I would listen is the actual question.”

*****

Dragon training ended early the next day, with Hiccup dropping the Nadder to the ground with a gentle scratch below the chin. Astrid gaped, breath heaving, but Hiccup left before she could even think about following him. Jack made sure that Hiccup wasn’t followed down to the grotto, nearly vibrating with nervous excitement.

Hiccup checked and double-checked every strap and buckle on the saddle. Toothless was waiting calmly, no doubt sensing both of the boys’ tenseness.

“Everything look good?” Jack asked when Hiccup finally looked up from the saddle.

“Everything’s perfect as far as I can tell,” Hiccup said with a nod. “It should be good.” He stood, stretching, and looked up at the sky. “It’s great flying conditions today,” he mused. Jack leaned on his staff, studying the peaceful look on Hiccup’s face, illuminated by the bright light of day. It was warmer than it had been recently, like the weather was making one last attempt at rebellion before it gave way to winter’s chill. The wind threaded through Hiccup’s hair, the locks bright in the sunlight. It looked soft to Jack, and he found his fingers itching to run through it.

Hiccup looked at Jack, like he could sense what Jack was thinking. Jack mentally scoffed; he had been careful not to let Hiccup catch him staring or give any obvious clues as to what he was feeling.

At least, he hoped so.

Hiccup smiled, somewhat shyly. “Before we go, I have something for you.” He glanced at Toothless, who gave him an encouraging look, and trotted over to the cave. He returned with a bundle in his hands, neatly folded. His hold was gentle, careful, like he was holding something precious.

“I made it, those times when I was in the workshop and you were with Toothless,” Hiccup explained, unfolding the bundle carefully. Once it was unfolded, Hiccup shook it out and held it up for Jack to see.

The cloak was made of a deep, rich blue leather. It was longer that Jack’s old cloak, falling down enough that it would reach his upper thighs easily. White wool decorated the collar, though in a thin enough layer that it wouldn’t blow in Jack’s face when he was in the air.

Jack stepped forward, reaching out to feel the material with an awed expression. Hiccup motioned for him to turn, and slipped the cloak over Jack’s shoulders. He looked on, expectant, as Jack ran his hands over the cloak. It was warm. Jack could feel the hot and the cold, but in a muted sort of way; neither bothered him much, but he could tell them apart, and he could tell that the cloak would be cozy, even against the cold that normally hung around Berk like a thick fog.

“There’s also, um…” Hiccup leaned up on his toes, fiddling with the back of the cloak. A hood, attached at the collar, fit up and over Jack’s head. “It can rain a lot,” Hiccup explained. “A good cloak needs a hood…”

*****

“Wait, wait.”

Jack looked up at the first interruption that had happened since he had started his story. The other Guardians had listened intently, drinking in every word, but Bunny finally spoke up gently.

“So, that’s when the blue hood started?” he asked, once Jack nodded for him to continue, rubbing his sore throat. Jack smiled sadly, tugging at his trademark hoodie.

“Yeah. I have Hiccup to thank for that.” He plucked at his sleeves, eyes faraway again. “The leather was specially treated- don’t ask me with what, I have no clue. It was extremely durable. Lasted for, well, a long time.”

Tooth rested a gentle hand on Jack’s arm. “What happened to it?” she asked softly. Jack clenched his fists.

“I lost it. Well, it was stolen,” he amended. “Hiccup had taught me a little about how to repair it. I could fix little things, tears and rips and the like. I had just mended it and gave it a good wash. I laid it out in the sun to dry, and thought I’d take a quick fly around to see if anything interesting was going on. I was only gone for a few minutes but, when I got back…. The cloak was gone.” He bit his lip. “I was… not happy,” he admitted in a low voice. The last thing he had that had reminded him of Hiccup, gone.

The other Guardians shared a look.

“When, mate?” Bunny asked, though he looked like he knew the answer. Jack looked down.

“1968… Easter Sunday,” he murmured without looking at Bunny.

A warm hand on his shoulder made Jack look up. Bunny patted his head gently. “Water under the bridge,” he said, for the first time since Jack had met him. Jack smiled sadly.

“Thanks, Bunny.”

*****

Jack touched the hood with a slightly shaking hand. Hiccup watched, face hopeful. Jack looked up at him, breaking into a wide, yet somewhat sad smile. “Hiccup,” he breathed, closing his eyes for a moment before opening them and trying again. “Thank you,” he said, voice wavering. Hiccup smiled crookedly.

Jack bit his lip and stepped forward, wrapping his arms around Hiccup. Hiccup hugged him back, no longer stiff with the touch as he had been the first time. He rested his chin on Jack’s shoulder, rubbing slow circles on Jack’s back. Jack clung to him, fighting to get control of himself.

Finally, Jack pulled back, though he didn’t step away. Hiccup was smiling at him, eyes soft with something Jack didn’t want to try to name. Jack’s eyes roamed over Hiccup’s face, cataloguing every freckle and drinking in the sight like he had firmly prevented himself from doing before. Hiccup didn’t look away, like Jack expected, but instead returned his gaze strongly.

Jack moved slowly, giving Hiccup plenty of time to stop him. He cupped Hiccup’s jaw in slender fingers, tilting his head up. Hiccup watched him intently, making no move to protest. Jack pressed their foreheads together, taking a steady breath. He moved forward slowly, but not hesitating.

Just before their lips touched, breath mingling warmly, Jack’s hands slid from Hiccup’s jaw to tangle in his hair gently. He was careful not to tug at all, merely running his fingers through the soft locks.

Hiccup still froze, stiffening against Jack. Jack jerked back, apology on his lips, but Hiccup shook his head before Jack could say anything.

“I-I think we should get started,” Hiccup said quickly, turning away from Jack and gathering the saddle in his hands. Jack clenched a handful of his new cloak in one fist, licking his lips. Toothless watched him, ears pressing down flat against his skull and looking apologetic. He held still as Hiccup saddled him, not dancing around as usual. The dragon kept glancing at Jack, who stood frozen to the spot.

He had ruined everything.

Chapter Text

There was something about soaring through the sky, riding the along the currents of the wind, that just blew all of your worries away. It was exhilarating and soothing at the same time. It cleared Jack’s head, giving him a sense of peace.

He could almost forget the massive mess he had created.

He glanced over at Hiccup, watching the wind whip through his hair, messing it up even more than it usually was. They were on the far side of Berk, away from the village, where the rocky sea cliffs were too high and dangerous for ships to pass through. The low-hanging clouds over the ocean gave them cover, just in case, but it wasn’t likely that anyone would venture out to this side of the island.

Toothless gave Jack a knowing look, making him turn away. Now wasn’t the time to dwell on that. He could curse himself later; he had to focus on the flight. Toothless and Hiccup had gotten better, but this was the first ‘real’ flight they had tried. Jack had to be on alert.

The wind curled around Jack as Hiccup leveled out. They were high above the water of the ocean, where the air was cold and crisp. Hiccup was grinning nervously, checking the saddle over one last time to make sure everything was in its place before patting Toothless’ neck. “Okay Bud,” he murmured. “Nice and easy. Position, uh, three…” he consulted the little guide he had attached to Toothless’ saddle that showed the different positions that the tailfin could go in. “No, four.” He adjusted the stirrup accordingly and the tailfin snapped out. Toothless wiggled, testing the hold of it against the wind, and narrowed his eyes eagerly.

Jack followed them as they turned and headed down in a dive. Toothless banked upwards just in time, skimming over the waves lightly with the tip of his wing. The sea cliffs loomed over them as they carefully weaved around them.

Hiccup missed a position change, sending Toothless careening into the side of one of the cliffs when they tried to straighten out.

“Sorry! My fault!”

Jack chuckled when Toothless jerked his head to the side, slapping Hiccup with his ear. “Yeah, yeah, I know,” Hiccup grumbled. He looked over at Jack. “We’re going to go back up now.” He angled the tailfin, sending Toothless into a steep climb. Jack stuck beside them, but it was going well. Toothless stuck his tongue out as they rose higher, obviously happy to be in the sky once again.

They reached the peak of their climb, hovering for a breathless moment. “Oh, this is great!” Hiccup shouted into the open air. “The wind in my- cheat sheet!” The little guide he had made tore loose of its holder, fluttering in the air over Hiccup’s head. As the Viking frantically grabbed for it, he failed to notice the metal ring from his belt slipping out of the hook that kept him in the saddle. Jack’s eyes widened as Hiccup was unseated, falling rapidly beside Toothless, who made a shocked noise and tried to get under Hiccup once again.

“No, no, you-you’ve got to try to a-angle yourself,” Hiccup babbled, but with the tailfin hanging loose, Toothless couldn’t control his spin. They were falling fast, too fast for Jack to catch up. Jack gripped his staff tightly and called to the wind. For the first time ever, Jack did something he never thought he’d do.

He sent the wind away.

“Help them,” he begged, and then he was falling.

Jack had never fallen before. He had jumped from high places, diving down and cutting a streak through the air, but he had always been in control. With just a thought, he could stop his descent and go back up whenever he pleased. This was different. The wind encircled Toothless, keeping him from spinning so Hiccup could grab the saddle and pull himself back into the seat. With the wind gone, Jack fell, and no matter how hard he clenched his staff, he couldn’t stop his descent. His stomach dropped and terror gripped at his chest, but he could see Hiccup settled back into the saddle and rehook his belt in place. A sigh of relief left Jack. Hiccup was safe.

They were all still falling though. Toothless threw his wings out, roaring as he tried to slow down. They were coming in on a group of rocky cliffs quickly. There was no way they could stop in time. Hiccup grabbed the guide from his mouth, holding it up to his face, but he quickly discarded it.

The wind hit Jack with a rushing force as Hiccup navigated his way through the cliffs on sheer instinct. He and Toothless moved seamlessly, and came out on the other side of the cliffs unscathed and with giant grins. By the time Jack had righted himself and managed to avoid hitting any of the rocks or trees, Toothless let out a mighty roar, joyfully sending a blast of fire into the air. Jack nearly fell again, he was laughing so hard, when he caught up to them and saw Hiccup’s hair standing straight up, covered in soot from the heat of the blast.

Hiccup scowled at him, but the corner of his mouth twitched upwards.

*****

Jack curled his nose up in disgust when Toothless heaved, plopping a sticky fish head on the ground beside Hiccup with a wet squelch.

After a few dives and maneuvers through the clouds, they had stumbled across a little stretch of land, barely big enough to be called an island, sheltered by the massive sea cliffs that towered over them. They had been flying for longer than Hiccup had planned, and his stomach growled loudly enough that Jack had heard it over the wind. Between Toothless scaring up a school of fish and Jack capturing them in prisons of ice, they managed to scrounge up a pile of fish in no time.

Toothless made a questioning noise, looking from the fish head to Hiccup. Hiccup grimaced. “Ah, no thanks. I’m good,” he motioned to the fish roasting over the small fire he had built. He smirked. “Maybe Jack would like some?”

Jack made the disgusted face again. “Jack would not like any, thank you,” he said quickly. Toothless huffed with a movement like a shrug and went back to his own pile of fish.

Hiccup handed Jack a perfectly browned fish a few moments later, which Jack accepted, careful not to let their fingers brush. Now that they were back on the ground, he could allow himself to think. Hiccup’s joking had been somewhat stiff, but no less genuine than it had been before. He made sure not to meet Jack’s eyes for more than a few seconds, but that was better than him refusing to look at Jack at all. Perhaps, he allowed himself to hope, he hadn’t messed everything up. Perhaps they could still be friends. Even if they couldn’t be more- and did Jack want more? He wasn’t sure now, his thoughts tumbling together and confusing him- Jack didn’t want to lose Hiccup. He could regain the Viking’s trust, and show Hiccup that he could be a good friend, because he couldn’t imagine what he’d do if Hiccup stopped believing in him, chose not to see him, left him alone again

Jack was jolted out of his thoughts by a series of squeaky growls. A horde of Terrible Terrors approached, most likely drawn by the scent of their fish. Hiccup stiffened a little as the first Terrors touched down, stalking over to Toothless, who growled and curled around his fish protectively. One fish shifted, moving away from the pile as a Terror tugged it. Toothless lunged, snapping the fish back and swallowing it. The Terror stared, giving Toothless a truly offended look, but Toothless just laughed.

The Terror stood, growling, and opened its mouth to shoot at Toothless, but Toothless beat it to the punch and sent a little spark into the Terror’s mouth. Hiccup chuckled as the little guy stumbled around. “Not so fireproof on the inside, are you?” He tossed one of the smaller fishes to the Terror, who gratefully gulped it down and curled up beside the Viking, promptly going to sleep. Hiccup patted its tummy with an amazed look. “Everything we know about you guys is wrong.”

Jack startled when a Terror snuck up on him, burrowing into the soft side of his new cloak and curling up. The others were quick to follow, pressing their warm bodies against Jack’s cool skin. He glanced over at Hiccup with wide eyes, making him laugh.

“I think they like you!” Hiccup said with a grin. Jack rolled his eyes.

“You think?” He looked like a dragon pile, covered in tiny Terrors, all who were snoozing comfortably. Come to think of it, he never had had any trouble from any of the wild dragons, both on Berk and during his travels. They either ignored him, or deemed him not enough of a threat to deal with. “Maybe it’s because I’m not human?”

He looked over in time to see Hiccup duck his head, biting his lip with a strange expression. He probably shouldn’t have brought that up, after what had happened.

The more he thought about it, the more it didn’t really make sense. He and Hiccup couldn’t be anything more than friends. Jack wasn’t human, he was a spirit. A very young one, at that. From what little he had seen of other spirits, Jack was pretty sure that he wouldn’t age. Not to mention, he was physically male. It didn’t bother him, but he didn’t even think about the fact that it might bother Hiccup.

One of the Terrors snorted and climbed up his shoulder, little claws digging into his neck, and settled there, sleepy breath puffing in his ear. The face Jack made had Hiccup laughing again, and Jack forgot his worries. Dwelling on it wouldn’t do anyone any good.

*****

Jack stayed in the grotto with Toothless that night, so he could have time to think. Toothless listened, making sympathetic noises and nodding at the proper places. Jack didn’t know how the people of Berk thought that the dragons were mindless animals. Toothless might not be able to talk, but he was intelligent.

When Toothless finally had enough of Jack’s rambling, he made a rumbling noise and ushered Jack to the little cave, pushing Jack in with his snout and curling around the spirit with his wings and going to sleep. Jack sighed resignedly and closed his eyes, trying to rest. He didn’t sleep, but Toothless had him pinned, so he couldn’t leave.

The rest helped. When the morning sun peeked through the trees and Toothless finally let him up, he felt a lot better. His head didn’t feel so full and hazy. “But if you do it again, I’ll ice your ears,” he told Toothless. The dragon snorted and rolled his eyes.

It was still early morning when Hiccup stepped into the grotto, a horned helmet tucked under his arm. Jack was able to give him a smile, a real smile, and got one back in return.

“What do you have there?” Jack asked, jumping to land beside Hiccup and peering at the helmet.

“Oh, uh, my dad gave it to me last night,” Hiccup said, holding the helmet up to show Jack. It was similar to the helmets that most of the population of Berk wore. “He came to the workshop last night to talk.”

Jack placed a hand on Hiccup’s shoulder. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” Hiccup sighed. “He wanted to come tell me that he was happy with how I was doing in dragon training. He gave me this helmet. Apparently it’s made from half of my mother’s breastplate.” They both took a moment to make a face, and then laughed. “Yeah…” Hiccup sobered up. “Today’s the last day of training. The elder is going to pick the top student, the one who will kill a dragon in front of the village.” He looked over at Toothless, who was playing in the water of the pond. “I can’t do it, Jack. I have to throw the competition.”

Jack squeezed his shoulder gently. “I know. They’ll know that you did your best.”

Hiccup swallowed and nodded. “I’ll let Astrid have the victory. She’s a better fighter anyway.”

“She may fight better, but you’re a better trainer,” Jack stressed, looking Hiccup in the eye. The brunette bit his lip, but didn’t look away. “And a better person.”

Hiccup ducked his head at that. “Thank you, Jack.”

*****

The arena was set up much like it always was during training, with wooden walls to duck behind and shields and weapons waiting and ready on their racks. Gobber had put the trainees through their paces, much as he usually did.

The crowd was new.

Jack peered out over the faces of nearly the entire village from his usual perch on the chains over the arena. True, after word of Hiccup’s skills had spread, a few villagers would stop when they could to watch the training sessions. But it was never like this. Everyone was watching, waiting eagerly for the winner to be chosen.

The Gronkle Gobber had let into the arena busied itself eating some of the stones stacked around. The trainees were slowly sneaking over to it, hiding behind the wooden walls. Hiccup was closest to the dragon, though he hadn’t moved since it had been released; it had come his way. Jack could see Hiccup roll his eyes at that even from above the arena.

Astrid rolled next to Hiccup, face smeared with dirt and soot. She was panting, sweating from her efforts; she really wanted to win. With a sneer, she leaned in Hiccup’s face.

“Stay out of my way,” she murmured. “I’m winning this thing.”

She rolled off as Hiccup called, “Please, be my guest!” He adjusted his helmet, shooting his dad a halfhearted smile. Stoick was at the front of the crowd, watching intently. Hiccup sighed, thin shoulders heaving, and crawled out from behind the wall.

The Gronkle spotted Hiccup, flapping its little wings quickly and chasing after him. Jack winced as Hiccup had to scratch the dragon under the chin, making it collapse with a happy sigh. Astrid was too late.

“Okay, so I have to go-”

Astrid cut him off, pressing her axe to his neck. Jack seriously considered icing her feet to the arena floor.

Gobber led the two to the middle of the arena, looking up to Stoick’s side where the village elder, a tiny woman named Gothi, was standing. She was the one who would decide the winner. Gobber lifted his hook over Astrid’s head, raising a brow in a silent question.

Gothi shook her head.

Mouth open slightly, Gobber lifted his hand and pointed at Hiccup. Gothi nodded with a small smile. “You’ve done it!” Gobber called, clapping Hiccup on the back. “You’ve done it, Hiccup! You get to kill the dragon!”

The arena flooded with villagers, all cheering and clapping for Hiccup. Hiccup grimaced, glancing up at Jack. “Yay,” he said dully, faking a smile. “Great, I’m so, so-”

Chapter Text

“-leaving. We’re leaving.”

Jack trailed behind Hiccup hesitantly, looking out over the grotto. Toothless wasn’t in sight- probably taking a nap in the shade somewhere, Jack had to guess. Hiccup slung a basket down off of his shoulder, plopping it down on the grass with a thud.

“Let’s pack up. Looks like you, me, and Jack are taking a little vacation.” He sighed. “Forever.” He quickly ducked his head, glancing back at Jack. “Um, if you want to come, that is,” he murmured as he opened the lid of the basket.

Jack scoffed. “I’m not letting you go by yourself, Hiccup,” he assured. “But are you sure…?”

Hiccup stood, turning to look Jack in the eye. “Yes. I can’t… I can’t do it. They can’t find Toothless, either. I have to protect him.”

Jack dropped down to his feet lightly, placing a hand on Hiccup’s shoulder. “Alright. But you don’t have to protect him alone.” He squeezed the Viking’s shoulder gently. “I kinda like the big lizard too, you know?”

Hiccup nodded, a small smile making the corners of his lips twitch up lightly. “I know.” He turned back to the basket, pawing through its contents. “Can you find Toothless? We need to get ready.”

Jack glided around the edge of the grotto, looking for the dragon, while Hiccup tended to the supplies. Jack had only reached the wall when Hiccup’s shout made him whip around.

“W-whoa! Wha-wha… what are you doing here?”

Astrid was perched on the rocks above him, axe in one hand and sharpening stone in the other. She ran the stone over the edge of the axe, honing the blade into a perfect, sharp edge. It gleamed in the sunlight that streamed through the trees, highlighted in her hand. “I wanna know what’s going on,” she said calmly, dropping the stone and tightening her grip on the axe. “No one just gets as good as you do,” she continued as she hopped off of the rock, advancing on Hiccup. “Especially you.”

Hiccup kept backing away, wary eyes glued to the newly-sharpened axe. Knowing Astrid’s previous fondness for going after his neck with it, Jack didn’t blame Hiccup. Astrid kept walking forward, looming over him, and Jack thought that he had never wanted to be seen as much as he did then, just so he could get between them.

“Now start talking,” Astrid demanded, ignoring Hiccup’s confused splutters. “Are you training with someone?” She grabbed the leather shoulder-pads of the harness Hiccup had made to give him more support if he slipped out of the saddle- which hadn’t happened since the first flight. Astrid’s hold lifted Hiccup up slightly off the ground with no problem. He was so much smaller than her. Jack ground his teeth, flying behind Hiccup but trying not to distract him. “It better not involve this!”

“I-I know this looks bad,” Hiccup began when Astrid finally paused long enough for him to get a word in. “But, you see, this is, uh…”

A few birds were startled out of the trees, making Astrid gasp and peer around the grotto. She grabbed Hiccup’s shoulder and shoved him to the ground.

“Hey!” Jack took an instinctive swipe at her, forgetting that his arm would go right through her. She stopped and shivered a little, running her fingers over the goose bumps that had risen on her arm where Jack had gone through her.

“U-uh, you’re right! You’re right!” Hiccup rolled to his feet, following after Astrid. He stepped in front of her, trying to block her view of the grotto. “I, I- I’m through with the lies. I’ve been making… outfits! So, you got me.” He grabbed her hand and put it on his shoulder. “It’s time everyone knew. Drag me back, go ahead. I deserve-”

Astrid grabbed Hiccup’s hand, twisting it backwards and over his shoulder until he dropped to the ground with a cry of pain. “Ow! Why would you do that?” he yelped as he tried to climb to his feet. Astrid kicked him back down.

“That’s for the lies,” she declared. She brought her axe up and dropped it handle-down onto Hiccup’s stomach, making him curl up and cough. “And that’s for everything else.”

The wind picked up, the air chilling, at the same time Toothless’ roar echoed over the grotto. Dragon and spirit both lunged. Astrid tackled Hiccup when he got up, slamming him back to the ground.

“Get down!”

She leapt up, axe at the ready to meet Toothless’ charge.

Jack got there first. He grabbed the axe through Astrid’s hands, ice blooming over her skin, and tore it from her grip. She had a second to look at the thin layer of ice on her fingers before she was confronted by Toothless, eyes wide. She fell back into a defensive stance and retrieved a dagger from her belt, angling it up to puncture Toothless’ throat.

“No!”

Hiccup jumped, wrestling the dagger from Astrid and tossing it away to join her axe. He was immediately on his feet again, rushing towards Toothless. “No, it’s okay! It’s okay!” he assured the dragon, trying to get Toothless to calm down. “She’s a friend.”

Jack snorted an ugly laugh at that. Hiccup shot him a glare, but judging by the expression on Toothless’ face, the dragon agreed with Jack. Still, he dropped down onto all fours, though he curled around Hiccup protectively, nudging his head under Hiccup’s arm and staring at Astrid. “You just scared him,” Hiccup said soothingly, glancing at her.

“I scared him?” Astrid yelped, scrambling backwards away from the dragon. She paused. “Who is him?”

“Uh. Astrid, this is Toothless. Toothless, Astrid,” he said with a nervous grimace, motioning from the girl to the dragon. Toothless growled, baring his teeth in a move Jack approved of.

Astrid’s mouth fell open and she shook her head, looking at Hiccup like he was crazy. She turned and ran, heading for the grotto’s exit before Hiccup could protest.

“Da da da, we’re dead,” Hiccup mumbled. Toothless gave Jack a satisfied look and lumbered off. “Whoa whoa, where do you think you’re going? Jack?”

Jack shrugged. “I’m with the dragon on this one,” he said, ignoring the glare he got in return. “I saw the way she treated you!”

“That wasn’t- she was just-” Hiccup tried to protest, but gave up at the look on Jack’s face. “We can’t just let her go without explaining! If she told the village, or my dad, we’d never get away!”

Jack peered at Hiccup beneath his lashes and sighed at the desperate look on his face. “Fine. I’ll track her, you get Toothless ready.” He frowned. “But if she hurts you again, I will make her stop.”

-----

“I don’t know what he sees in you,” Jack declared as he flew beside Astrid. She was panting loudly, crashing through the trees in a panic. Even now, Jack suspected Hiccup liked her. He had never said so, but most of the boys in Berk did. It was possible that Hiccup did too (and Jack wasn’t jealous, he wasn’t). “You’re mean. I don’t like bullies.”

Jack heard the flap of Toothless’ wings and waved, catching their attention. When Astrid tried leaping over a fallen tree, Toothless caught her midair and lifted her up high. Jack felt a childish satisfaction at the sheer terror on her face as she looked down.

“Oh, great Odin’s ghost!” she whimpered, clinging to Toothless’ paw. “This is it… whoa!”

Toothless deposited her on the top branches of one of the tallest trees, lighting beside her on Hiccup’s command. Jack perched on the tree next to them, watching.

“Hiccup,” Astrid demanded angrily, clinging to the tree branch, “get me down from here!”

“You have to give me a chance to explain.”

“I’m not listening to anything you have to say!”

Hiccup rolled his eyes. “Then I won’t say anything. But let me show you.” Astrid hesitated, looking down. “Please, Astrid,” Hiccup added softly.

Astrid huffed and finally pulled herself up. Toothless gave a warning growl when Astrid reached a hand towards him, but allowed her to climb on his back behind Hiccup. “Okay… now get me down from here,” Astrid commanded.

“Toothless, down.” Hiccup patted the dragon’s neck. “Gently.”

He completely missed the smirk on Toothless’ face, but Jack didn’t.

Toothless shot straight up towards the clouds, wings pumping powerfully. Jack called the wind and followed them, unable to feel the least bit sorry for Astrid, who was screaming at the top of her lungs.

“Toothless, what is wrong with you?”

Jack sniggered, feeling immature but pleased. Toothless leveled out for a second, letting Astrid get seated again, before going into a straight dive. Hiccup had no choice but to go along, working the tailfin or risk throwing them all into the sea.

“He’s uh, he’s usually not like this,” Jack heard Hiccup say over the wind. “Toothless, what are you doing? We need her to like us?”

Toothless skimmed over the water, splashing the salty waves in Astrid’s face. Hiccup barely adjusted the tailfin in time when Toothless angled straight up again. Astrid’s screams started afresh as Toothless began to spin. She clung to Hiccup, eyes shut tightly. Finally, Jack could hear, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”

Toothless heard it too, and finally leveled out, gliding on the air currents. At the smooth glide, Astrid finally risked peering up over Hiccup’s shoulder. The sun was slowly dipping towards the ocean, illuminating the water with an orange glow. Toothless drifted up slightly, disappearing into the clouds. Jack followed them up, trailing behind with a frown. By the time Jack caught up to them, Astrid was grinning widely, both arms above her head so she could run her hands through the clouds.

Toothless rose above the layer of the clouds, coming out into the cold, clear air of the night that was slowly descending over Berk. The stars were bright against the velvet layer of night, sparkling more than Jack had ever seen them. As they flew further along, the beautiful rainbow lights that stretched over the sky sometimes during winter lit up, painting the sky a myriad of beautiful colors. Astrid stared, amazed, placing a hand on Hiccup’s waist to prop herself up and get a better look. Hiccup glanced at her hand, looking sheepish.

Jack swallowed around a knot that suddenly grew in his throat. Toothless looked at Jack, the first time anyone had paid attention to him since the flight started. The dragon’s eyes were sad, and Jack had to fight to look away. It wasn’t Toothless’ fault. It wasn’t anyone’s fault.

With the cover of night protecting them, Hiccup steered Toothless over Berk. At night, when the fires were lit, the island village was a sight to behold. Astrid gaped in awe. From the ground, it was hard to see the beauty of the island sometimes, but it became clear from the air.

Astrid grinned and wrapped her arms around Hiccup’s waist, hugging him.

Jack wanted to leave. He didn’t want to have to watch this. He would have left, if he wasn’t worried that Hiccup would need him. That was one thing Astrid couldn’t do- she couldn’t catch Hiccup when he fell. The only two who could were Jack and Toothless.

The thought only made him feel slightly better.

“Alright,” Astrid’s voice cut across the wind. “I have to admit, this is pretty cool. It’s amazing.” She patted Toothless’ neck. “He’s amazing.” She sat up straight again, grin falling into something more serious. “So, what now? Hiccup, your final exam is tomorrow. You know you’re going to have to…” she paused and lowered her voice. “You’re going to have to kill a dragon,” she whispered, trying not to let Toothless hear. Like his advanced hearing couldn’t pick it all up, Jack thought bitterly.

It didn’t matter, though. Toothless’ ears perked, but he was listening for something else. Jack flew close to him, straining to hear. There was a low hum vibrating through the air. Toothless’ eyes widened, pupils narrowing into slits. Jack made a questioning noise in the back of his throat.

Toothless jerked, heading down into a heavy layer of fog that was rolling in over the sea. “What’s wrong, Toothless?” Hiccup asked frantically. “What is it, Bud?”

Jack stuck close to Toothless, trying not to get lost in the fog. He was the first to see the outlines through the gray mist. “Hiccup!” he called. Hiccup looked down, almost like he had forgotten that Jack was there, but Jack didn’t dwell on it. It wasn’t the time. Instead, he pointed out the distinct shadow of a Monstrous Nightmare flying ahead of them.

More dragons flew through the fog, surrounding them on all sides. Each dragon carried some form of prey, from stolen sheep to some of the largest fish that Jack had ever seen, clutched in their sharp claws.

“What’s going on?” Astrid asked quietly, pressing close to Hiccup’s back.

“I don’t know…” Hiccup frowned, bending to murmur in Toothless’ ear. “Toothless, you have to get us out of here.” Toothless just shook his head. Hiccup glanced around. “It looks like they’re hauling in their kill,” he observed.

“What does that make us?” Astrid hissed. Jack frowned, irritated. Toothless wouldn’t do that!

It wasn’t too much further that all of the dragons began to descend, weaving their way around rocky sea cliffs. Jack struggled to keep up, in awe at the fact that none of the dragons seemed to be having trouble maneuvering their way through the dark and the fog.

They finally broke through the fog at the base of a dark island. It rose up tall and imposing, and the top glowed orange with a worrying heat. The dragons flew into a wide tunnel that burrowed into the side of the mountain, coming out into a massive cave. It was stifling hot, thanks to the orange glow of a fire slowly burning at the center, though it was hidden by a layer of steam too thick to see through. Jack took a deep breath, trying not to faint, and followed Toothless along the edge of the cave. Toothless tucked behind a rock pillar, hiding in the shadows and panting heavily.

“What my dad wouldn’t give to find this,” Hiccup murmured, watching the dragons from their hiding spot. Every dragon that came in bore some sort of prey, but merely dropped it into the steam below before finding a perch to land on. Hiccup scoffed. “Nice to know that all of our food is being dumped down a hole.”

“They’re not eating any of it.” Astrid peered around Hiccup’s shoulder. “But why?”

The inpouring of dragons into the entrance began to slow as it seemed that most of them had arrived. The last straggler that Jack could see was a Gronkle, but it had nothing in its claws. It paused over the opening, scratching its ear lazily. Finally, it opened its mouth and dropped a small fish down into the hole. Happily, its little wings buzzed as it began to fly off.

With barely a warning growl, a massive head rose out of the steam. Jagged teeth snapped around the Gronkle before it could even make a sound. The dragon, if it could even be called that, had scales bigger than Jack’s head, and its mouth was big enough to hold at least ten Nightmares.

“What is that?” Astrid gulped, tightening her hold on Hiccup.

The massive dragon slid back into the hole, throat rumbling with a deep noise that made Jack’s bones shake. He was gripping his staff so tightly he was surprised it didn’t cut into his skin. The head rose out of the steam again, nostrils flaring as it scented the area. The wild dragons all retreated behind any rocks they could find, trying to look as small as possible.

“Alright Bud, we gotta go,” Hiccup murmured, patting Toothless’ head. Jack could see the tension in the clench of his fists. The massive dragon’s nostrils flared again, searching for something. “Now, let’s go!”

Toothless launching into the air at the same time the big dragon lunged, teeth snapping at him but missing. The wild dragons took off, startled and trying to flee the snapping teeth. They circled the cave, racing for the top which opened into the night sky. Toothless’ wings pumped frantically as the big dragon lifted higher up out of the steam, legs thicker than several tree trunks put together scrabbling for footholds as it tried to snap Toothless in its mouth.

“Go, go, go!” Jack urged, looking back and feeling his stomach drop. Toothless got away fine, but another dragon, a Zippleback, got caught instead. It flailed, both heads crying in pain and fear. Toothless was almost out of the cave- he was gonna make it. Jack turned, charging back down towards the massive dragon.

Large eyes tracked his movements, and Jack’s stomach dropped when he remembered that dragons could see him. But the Zippleback was crying out again, so Jack set his jaw determinedly and brought his staff up. His magic gathered in his hands, and he let it build before releasing it. Ice shot through the air, stinging the big dragon in the nostril. It opened its mouth, preparing for a sneeze that would no doubt shake the entire mountain, and the Zippleback fled as soon as its wings were free. Jack turned and followed suit, shaking so much that he drifted off course a little as he followed Toothless’ distant form back to Berk.

-----

“No, no, it totally makes sense!” Astrid shouted as soon as the grotto was in sight. “It’s like a giant beehive. They’re the workers, and that’s their queen. It controls them.” She jumped off of Toothless’ back immediately after they landed. “Let’s find your dad!”

“No!” Hiccup jumped off after her. Jack landed next to Toothless, legs still shaking, and he would have fallen if the dragon hadn’t caught him. Hiccup caught up to Astrid, stopping her. “No. Not yet. They’ll kill Toothless, no, I- Astrid, we have to think this through carefully.”

“Hiccup, we just discovered the dragon’s nest: the thing Vikings have been searching for since we first sailed here! And you want to keep it a secret? To protect your pet dragon. Are you serious?”

Hiccup turned, standing tall and firm. His face booked no argument when he answered, “Yes.” Astrid’s face dropped as his conviction hit her.

“Okay.” Astrid nodded. “Then what do we do?”

Hiccup half-shrugged. “Just, give me until tomorrow. I’ll figure something out.”

Astrid hesitated before nodding again. “Okay.” She fidgeted before punching Hiccup’s arm. “That’s for kidnapping me.” Hiccup glanced at Jack and Toothless in confusion. Astrid tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear, drawing Hiccup’s attention back to her. “And… this is for… everything else.” She placed a hand on his shoulder and leaned in.

If Toothless wasn’t still supporting him, Jack would have fallen to his knees. Astrid was going in for a kiss, no doubt about it, and he was too shaken up to flee and avoid watching. His fingers dug into the side of his cloak so tightly it was almost painful, and Toothless nudged him in concern, eyes wide and sad.

“Wait.”

Hiccup leaned away before Astrid’s mouth could touch his. Astrid bit her lip, looking uncharacteristically shy. Hiccup half-smiled, half-grimaced.

“It’s not- I’m not…” He ran a hand through his hair. “I’m really sorry, Astrid. But there’s…” he trailed off, looking troubled, and Astrid smiled faintly.

“Someone else?” She guessed. Jack ducked his head down, pulling his hood over his face. It wasn’t true, though.

Hiccup let out a sigh and nodded. “Yes. There is.”

Astrid searched his face for a moment before nodded. “I see.” She punched him again, though softer this time. “You tell them I said they better treat you right, okay?” She backed away. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” With that, she turned and headed back to the village.

Jack stayed hidden beneath his hood, more than a little confused. Hiccup shuffled over to him awkwardly, wringing his hands nervously. “Jack?”

“Why didn’t you kiss her?” Jack blurted before he could stop himself. Hiccup blinked.

“Ah, um, I was thinking… I mean…” he flushed brightly. “The other day? It wasn’t…?”

Jack could feel Toothless huff, and the dragon bumped against Jack’s hips, making him stumble forward against Hiccup. Hiccup barely caught him in time, holding Jack’s arms tightly. Toothless lumbered off, satisfied with his work, but Jack couldn’t tear his eyes away from Hiccup’s to glare at the dragon.

Hiccup reached up to slide the hood off of Jack’s head. Jack bit his lip, nervous and unsure. Hiccup smiled his crooked smile and tilted his head. He leaned closer, and Jack’s hands automatically went up to cup his face. His fingers wandered up Hiccup’s jaw, but he paused at Hiccup’s hairline, remembering the last time.

Hiccup simply smiled, and took Jack’s hand in his. He rested Jack’s hand in his hair, leaning into the touch and closing his eyes happily.

Jack closed the rest of the distance between them, slotting his lips against Hiccup’s. He tangled his fingers in the younger boy’s hair gently, and received a content sigh in return.

They were both grinning when they pulled away, and laughed when they saw each other’s expressions. Hiccup leaned against Jack’s chest, shoulders shaking with laughter. He glanced up at Jack, green eyes sparkling with mirth, and Jack beamed.

Hiccup wrapped his arms around Jack and hugged him tightly.

“So, we…?” Jack asked with a frosty blush. Hiccup made an affirming sound and nodded.

“Yes. We are.”

Chapter Text

The next day was clear and bright, only a slight chill in the air suggesting that winter was approaching. Despite the perfect weather, the village of Berk was quiet and empty. Every villager was crowded around the arena, the excited thrum of their voices blending together. Over the clamor, Stoick’s voice rose loud and clear.

“Well, I can show my face in public again!” A few laughs sounded. “If someone had told me that in a few short weeks, Hiccup would go from, well, being… ah… Hiccup, to placing first in dragon training, well I would have tied him to a mast and shipped him off, for fear he had gone mad!” The crowd cheered, agreeing loudly. Up above the crowd, on a slightly raised platform, Stoick laughed along with them. “But,” he said after a moment, calling attention back to his speech, “here we are. And no one’s more surprised, or more proud, than I am.”

Over in the entrance tunnel to the arena, hidden in the shadows, Hiccup sighed heavily. The horned helmet was in his hands, knuckles white from the intensity of his grip. Jack was at his side, looking out over the crowd of Vikings. He placed a gentle hand on Hiccup’s shoulder. “I believe in you.” Hiccup tried to smile, but it came out as more of a grimace.

“Thanks, Jack.” Tentatively, he brought one hand up to grip Jack’s cloak tightly. Jack gently pried his fingers loose and threaded his through them lightly.

“I’ll be right with you,” he promised, nodding to the chains over the arena where he usually perched. “If anything happens, I’ll be ready.”

Hiccup’s eyes softened and he gave Jack’s hand a quick squeeze, conveying his appreciation without words.

“Today, my boy becomes a Viking,” Stoick’s voice rose once more. “Today, he becomes one of us!”

Jack released Hiccup’s hand as Astrid approached, stepping aside so she could nudge his shoulder. “Be careful with that dragon,” she said quietly. Hiccup chuckled humorlessly.

“I’m not worried about the dragon.” He was looking straight at Stoick.

“What are you going to do?”

“Put an end to this,” Hiccup said with a shrug. “I have to try.” He turned. “Astrid,” he began, but he let his eyes linger on Jack for a fraction of a second, “promise me, if something goes wrong… just make sure they don’t find Toothless.”

Biting his lip, Jack reached through Astrid, ignoring the painful discomfort, and gripped Hiccup’s arm. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”

Astrid shifted, and Jack pulled his arm back with a wince. “I will. Just promise me nothing will go wrong,” she said.

Before Hiccup could say anything else, Gobber stepped into the tunnel. “It’s time, Hiccup. Knock ‘em dead!”

The crowd’s voice sounded, chanting Hiccup’s name as he slipped his helmet on and stepped into the ring. He took a steadying breath and walked over to the weapons rack waiting for him. Without looking, he grabbed a shield, and the smallest dagger available. He turned to face the large wooden doors that separated him from the dragon he was supposed to fight. Jack ghosted a hand over his back.

“I know you can do this. I believe in you,” he murmured, before flying up to hang on the chains overhead. Hiccup’s eyes followed him up, before he looked back to the door.

“I’m ready.”

With a slow, steady creak, the wooden timber that kept the cage securely close was lifted. There was a small moment of silence, even the rowdy audience holding their breath with anticipation.

Then the door burst open with a wave of fire and heat so intense that Jack could feel it from his perch. The Nightmare was already blazing, flames covering its entire body. It gave a rumbling growl and darted to the wall, long claws scraping the stone as it made its way around the circle of the arena. It climbed up towards the top of the wall, where the chains began, and shot a stream of molten fire. The crowd parted, jumping out of the way of the blaze, but the dragon was already moving on. It climbed across the chains, hanging upside down over the arena floor. Jack had to fly up to avoid being burnt- the dragon was ignoring him completely.

The dragon paused, the flames of its skin fading, as if it only just realized that it wasn’t alone in the arena. It bent backwards, dropping down to the floor slowly. Narrowed eyes took in the tiny human as the dragon crouched down to get a better view.

The dragon advanced, and Hiccup slowly backed up. Shouts came from the audience, urging him to attack, but he merely ignored them. After a few retreating steps, Hiccup dropped the shield and dagger. Jack heard gasps, but kept his eyes glued to Hiccup.

The Nightmare rumbled, trying to spot the trick. Hiccup held his hands out placatingly. “Hey, hey, it’s alright,” he said soothingly. “It’s okay.” Setting his jaw in a stubborn line, Hiccup removed his helmet. His eyes flickered to Stoick. “I’m not one of them.”

The helmet hit the stone floor with a resonating clang.

Jack tensed as the Nightmare looked at Hiccup, eyes calculating. Hiccup held out a single hand.

“Stop the fight,” Stoick said, standing out of his chair.

“No! I need you all to see this.” Hiccup extended his arm. “They’re not what we think they are. We don’t have to kill them.” The Nightmare’s pupils widened, and it shifted towards Hiccup.

“I said stop the fight!”

Jack could feel the vibrations of Stoick’s hammer crashing down on the metal cage around the arena. The sound echoed in the silence left by the shock of Hiccup’s actions.

The Nightmare’s eyes, which had softened, jerked open again and it startled, snapping at Hiccup’s hand. He barely managed to dodge the burst of fire that followed. Jack dropped down, shooting ice at the dragon’s snout, but his frost wasn’t strong enough to even make it pause for a second. He wasn’t strong enough.

“Wind! Help!” he shouted, the words torn away by a sudden gust. He could only spare a moment of thought as to what it planned before he dropped again, trying to divert the Nightmare from Hiccup’s path.

“Hiccup!” Astrid grabbed an axe and slammed the point below the gate, jacking it up enough to slip under. Hiccup lunged for a shield, but the Nightmare crushed the wood rack just before he could reach it, and he had to roll away to avoid the huge claws aimed at his head. Astrid scooped up a war hammer from the rubble and tossed it, sending it straight into the Nightmare’s head. It sped after her, slamming into the wall with a loud thud.

“This way!” Stoick hefted the gate up with a grunt, motioning for the two teens to hurry out. Astrid reached him first; he pushed her behind him to safety.

Hiccup wasn’t fast enough. Jack jumped and slammed bodily into the Nightmare’s head, just barely knocking it to the side enough that the stream of fire it let loose missed Hiccup. The fire covered the entrance, dripping from the stone ceiling of the tunnel. Hiccup shot the other direction, but Jack wasn’t quick enough to get the Nightmare before it knocked Hiccup over, pinning him down with its claws on either side of him. It hissed, opening its mouth to ready its fire.

A high-pitched squeal echoed over the arena, making the battle-hardened Vikings turn, faces pale. “Night Fury!” someone screamed. Jack’s breath caught in his throat. The wind had taken his plea to the grotto!

A blue explosion burned a hole in the chain cage around the arena, sending Vikings ducking for cover. Dust and smoke billowed, making it difficult to see. Jack rolled forward, grabbing Hiccup up when Toothless jumped on the Nightmare and pulled it off of the small Viking. Hiccup swayed on his feet, watching Toothless roll the Nightmare over and over, teeth and claws buried in its back. The Nightmare knocked Toothless off, but a strong kick sent it careening away.

The two dragons stood, growling and roaring at each other. Toothless’ wings opened, covering Hiccup and Jack, and he pulled himself up to his full height. The Nightmare tried to circle Toothless, but he snapped, refusing to let it pass. With a final hiss, the Nightmare retreated to its cage. Hiccup ran to Toothless, pushing his neck.

“Go, go! You have to get out of here!”

With the Nightmare gone, the arena flooded with Vikings, weapons at the ready. Hiccup pushed Toothless again. Jack saw Stoick grab a wickedly curved axe, eyes hard. “Hiccup!”

“No, dad!” Toothless saw the approaching threat and lunched, kicking two Vikings away and going for Stoick. “No, no don’t-!”

It was easy for the dragon to knock Stoick to the ground. “Toothless, don’t!” Toothless sucked in a sharp breath, reading a shot, but Hiccup’s voice rose louder than Jack had ever heard it. “No, no!”

The confused look in Toothless’ eyes made Jack’s throat tighten. The dragon dropped to all fours, making a noise in the back of his throat.

Toothless was strong, and smart, but he didn’t stand a chance when five Vikings hit him at once. Hiccup tried to jump in between them, but Astrid held him back. He would have gotten hurt, but Jack wouldn’t. Jack leaped forward, knocking Stoick’s second in command away from Toothless’ head with a blast of ice. The big man recovered and slammed the dragon’s mouth closed. Jack swiped again.

There was only so much he could do when no one believed in him.

“No, no, no please, don’t hurt him!”

Stoick turned from the dragon to his son. “Put the dragon with the others,” he spat.

-----

Jack followed Stoick, grabbing at his arm uselessly. Stoick kicked the doors of the Great Hall open, bodily throwing Hiccup inside. He was barely able to catch himself, Jack rushing forward to help steady him. The Great Hall was dark, none of the torches lit at that time of day, but the light from the open door showed Stoick’s face, cold and hard as stone.

“I should have known. I should have seen the signs!” Stoick paced forward, ignoring Hiccup.

“Dad!”

“We had a deal!”

Hiccup tried to grab his father’s elbow, but it was jerked out of his grip. “I know, yeah, but that was- that was before I- oh, it’s all so messed up!” Hiccup ran his hands through his hair, tugging harshly.

“Was everything in the ring… a trick?” Stoick demanded. “A lie?”

“I screwed up!” Hiccup stuttered. “I-I, I should have told you before now. I… just… you take this out on me, be mad at me, but please just don’t hurt Toothless!”

The fury in Stoick’s eyes as he rounded on Hiccup made Jack flinch. “The dragon?” he asked, voice harsh with disbelief. “That’s what you’re worried about? Not the people you almost killed?”

“He was just protecting me! He-he’s not dangerous!”

“They’ve killed hundreds of us!” Stoick yelled, raising his hands like he wanted nothing more than to grab Hiccup and shake him.

“And we’ve killed thousands of them!” Hiccup shot back. “They defend themselves, that’s all. They raid us because they have to! If they don’t bring enough food back, they’ll be eaten themselves. There’s… something else… on their island…”

“Hiccup!” Jack yelped, but it was too late. Stoick’s eyes widened.

“Their island? So you’ve been to the nest…”

“Did I say nest?” Hiccup began backing up slowly.

“How did you find it?”

“What? No, no I didn’t. Toothless did; only a dragon can find the island.”

The silence that fell said that Hiccup realized what he had just given away.

“Oh, no-no, dad! No, please, it’s not what you think,” Hiccup pleaded. “You don’t know what you’re up against! It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen!” Stoick pushed past Hiccup, ignoring his words. “Dad, please!” Hiccup chased after his father frantically. “I promise you, you can’t win this one! For once in your life will you please just listen to me?” He caught Stoick’s arm, but Stoick shoved, sending Hiccup flying. Jack caught his head before it hit the floor, cradled in his lap.

“You’ve thrown your lot in with them,” Stoick said slowly, turning. “You’re not a Viking. You’re not my son!”

He slammed the door closed behind him, leaving Hiccup in the dark, clinging to Jack’s arm.

-----

Every able-bodied man and woman worked quickly to load Berk’s fleet. The boats were stocked with weapons and supplies, the people donning armor and war faces. Stoick was in the lead ship. A vast section of the boat was taken up by a catapult altered and rigged to hold Toothless, ropes and metal bands holding him in place. He struggled, crying out, but the contraption was too strong.

Jack cursed, tugging futilely at the chains and ropes, ignoring the men that walked straight through him as they prepared to set sail. He couldn’t ice the metal and break it without hurting Toothless. “I can’t,” Jack whispered, biting his lip and tugging harder. Toothless nudged him with his snout. “I’m sorry, Toothless.”

Toothless jerked his head back at Berk as much as he could, making a stern noise. Jack could read his expression.

Hiccup needs you.

“I know, big guy.” Jack crouched so he was eye level with Toothless. “We will figure out a way to help you,” he promised. He left as Stoick shouted orders, blinking rapidly.

Hiccup was standing alone on the edge of the upper section of the docks, mouth set in a grim line. Jack landed beside him. At his questioning glance, Jack shook his head.

They watched the ships leave the harbor, standing there in silence as the fleet crossed the horizon.

Eventually, Astrid stepped up to Hiccup’s side. He didn’t look at her, and she fidgeted. “It’s a mess,” she said finally. “You must feel horrible. You’ve lost everything: your father, your tribe, your best friend…”

“Thank you for summing that up.” Hiccup sighed. “Why couldn’t I have killed that dragon when I found him in the woods?”

Jack was silent, thinking back to that day.

“It would have been better for everyone…” His hand brushed Jack’s lightly.

“Yep,” Astrid agreed. “The rest of us would have done it. So why didn’t you?” When she didn’t receive an answer, she tried again. “Why didn’t you?”

“I don’t know.” Hiccup shrugged. “I couldn’t.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“Why is this so important to you all of a sudden?” Hiccup demanded, looking down at his feet.

“Because I want to remember what you say, right now.”

“Oh, for the love of…! I, I was a coward, I was weak, I wouldn’t kill a dragon!”

Astrid nodded. “You said ‘wouldn’t’ that time.”

“Ugh, whatever! I wouldn’t ! Three hundred years, and I’m the first Viking who wouldn’t kill a dragon!”

Astrid stepped in front of Hiccup, looking at him. “Yeah. The first to ride one, though.”

Hiccup kept his eyes trained on the ocean, but Jack saw them widen slightly. He gently took Hiccup’s hand loosely in his. “She’s right, you know.”

“I wouldn’t kill him…” Hiccup said slowly, “because he looked as frightened as I was. I looked at him, and I saw myself.”

The corner of Astrid’s mouth turned up slightly, and Jack gained a grudging new respect for her. “I bet he’s really frightened now,” she mused. “What are you gonna do about it?”

Hiccup squeezed Jack’s hand. “Probably something stupid.”

“Good, but you’ve already done that,” Astrid pointed out. Hiccup smiled.

“Then something crazy.” He dropped Jack’s hand and raced up the dock. Astrid grinned.

“That’s more like it.”

Chapter Text

“If you’re planning on getting eaten, I’d definitely go with the Gronkle.”

Jack and Hiccup turned away from the doors in front of them. Jack had raced after Hiccup when the Viking had left the docks, but Astrid had gone the other way, heading deeper into the village. Hiccup had wasted no time in entering the arena, rubbing his head as he considered the cages. Astrid apparently hadn’t wasted any time either; she had gathered the other teenagers from Berk and coaxed them to the arena as well. They stood in a line, all with varying expressions, from disbelief to excitement, on their faces.

Tuffnut pushed his way to the front, nearly knocking his sister over. “You were wise to seek help from the world’s most deadly weapon,” he declared, waggling his fingers in front of Hiccup’s face. At Hiccup’s silence, Tuffnut frowned. “It’s me!”

Snotlout’s beefy hand pushed Tuffnut away with ease. “I love this plan!”

Ruffnut hip-checked Snotlout to the side. “You’re crazy!” she accused, pointing a finger at Hiccup. Lowering her voice, she leaned in closer. “I like that.”

Jack snorted as Astrid tugged Ruffnut back in line, herding everyone together again. “So… what is the plan?”

Hiccup grinned.

It was easy to coax the Nightmare out of its cage gently. Hiccup backed as the dragon lumbered out into the arena, one hand extended peacefully. Without the audience hooting and throwing things, the dragon was calm and open to Hiccup. Jack watched with pride as he led the dragon to the other teens. They were anxious and excited; Snotlout even scooped up the broken point of a spear before Astrid elbowed him with a firm look and made him drop it again.

Hiccup didn’t even look away from the Nightmare when he reached the others, merely grabbed for Snotlout’s arm.

“Wait! What’re you-?”

“Shh, it’s okay,” Hiccup reassured. “It’s okay.” He brought Snotlout’s hand to where his was, resting gently on the Nightmare’s snout. The dragon made a rumbling purr, studying Snotlout, who was beaming with only a hint of his previous nervousness.

Hiccup nodded and headed over to one of the various crates that dotted the arena floor. Snotlout flinched. “Where are you going?”

“You need something to help you hold on,” he explained. “Astrid, get the other doors ready. We’re going to need all the air power we can get.” As Astrid went to do so, Hiccup slightly tilted his head towards Jack, beckoning him over with a crooked finger. “I need you to go ahead,” he murmured quietly. He began digging through the crate, gathering long strips of rope.

“What?”

“It’s going to take a few tries to get them all flying well enough to cross the ocean.” Hiccup glanced at Jack, his fear showing through the momentary confidence the display with the Nightmare had given him. “I- I don’t know what they have planned for Toothless. Please, Jack, can you go make sure they don’t hurt him?” He chewed on his lower lip. “That… thing, on the island, isn’t going to go easy on them. I know it’s a lot to ask… Please, protect Toothless?”

Jack nodded. “I will. I’ll do everything that I can.” He nudged Hiccup lightly. “Just make sure you show up, okay?”

Hiccup chuckled. “Like you could keep me away.”

“Hiccup?” Astrid was at the cage doors, ready to undo the locks. Hiccup stood, looking Jack in the eye.

“Be careful.”

Jack smiled. “Who, me? I’m always careful.”

“I mean it, Jack.” Hiccup’s face was stern.

“I promise.”

-----

It was easy to catch up to the ships. Jack raced on the wind, trusting it to direct him towards the dragons’ island. He caught sight of Berk’s fleet just before they came up to the fog that surrounded the waters of the island. The wind deposited him down on Stoick’s ship, next to Toothless, with a barely noticeable thump.

Toothless jerked, looking at Jack in confusion. “Don’t worry big guy. Hiccup’s on his way,” he promised. “We’re going to get you out of here, and we’re going to make sure that stubborn Viking stays safe.”

Toothless considered Jack for a moment, before nodding. They had to protect Hiccup, no matter what.

The fog closed around the ships, enveloping them in thick, damp layers. There was hardly a breeze that reached the ships in the fog, making the travel slow. Stoick’s voice rang out over the water as he called out orders to the other ships.

“Listen, Stoick…” Gobber fidgeted next to the chief, looking anxious. Jack shared a glanced with Toothless before wandering closer to listen. Snotlout’s father was the official second-in-command of Berk, as far as Jack could tell, but Gobber was closer to the chief than any of the other villagers.

“I was overhearing some of the men just now,” Gobber continued. “Well, you know, some of them are wondering what it is we’re up to here. Not me, of course,” he assured quickly. “I know you’re always the man with the plan. But some- not me- were wondering if there is, in fact, a plan at all, and what that plan might be?”

Jack got as close to the two men as he could without passing through them, listening for Stoick’s answer. Anything he found out might help Hiccup.

“Find the nest and take it,” Stoick growled, not taking his eyes off of the water in front of them. Jack hummed. He had expected something more… strategic. More of a plan. Gobber nodded.

“Of course, send them running; the old Viking fall back. Nice and simple.”

Stoick tilted his head and turned, shushing Gobber. Jack backed out of their way, crouching next to Toothless. The dragon had his head down low, ears twitching, and he was making a faint chatter in the back of his throat. Stoick pushed through the crew back to the rudder, taking it over. He watched Toothless intently, waiting.

Toothless’ head shot up and turned, looking to the right. Stoick made a sharp turn, steering the ship in the direction Toothless was looking. Jack realized that he was using Toothless to track their way to the island, only managing to avoid crashing into the sea cliffs because Toothless was inadvertently guiding him. Jack huffed and rested a hand on Toothless’ side, feeling the rumble of the noise that he was making through his skin.

It was after several sharp turns that Jack heard it. A faint hum sounded in the distance, slowly drawing nearer. He was the first to notice, but soon one of the Vikings pointed it out to the others. The closer they got to the island, the louder the humming got.

By the time the shore of the island came into view, the humming completely filled the air. Jack could feel the sound in his bones. The sound of thousands of dragons reverberated in his core, making even his teeth shake with it.

Stoick’s ship hit the shore first. It wasn’t sand at all; it looked to be round, polished rocks, all piled up on the wide stretch of shore that led to the mountain that rose high above them. The crunch of Stoick’s boots as he hopped onto the island was followed by complete silence; as soon as he touched down, the humming stopped, leaving and eerie quiet in its wake. Jack shivered, leaning against Toothless.

Jack had to hand it to them; the Vikings were swift. Once they were sure that the dragons would wait for them to make the first move, they immediately began unloading the ships. One group handed out weapons, another shields. Stoick surveyed the area with a critical eye, while the rest of the Vikings sharpened wooden stakes to form a barricade halfway up the beach. Jack felt a twinge in his gut when he realized that the Vikings really had no idea what they were about to face. They should have listened to Hiccup, he thought.

“Come on, Hic,” he murmured, looking up into the gray sky as the Vikings began loading the catapults. They were preparing for their attack more quickly than he had imagined that they would be able to. Toothless stared out over the beach, perking and drooping his ears in turn as he watched the futile efforts.

Stoick called for the others to gather close when the preparations were complete. He pushed the rocks aside until he had a decent spot of black sand cleared away. With the tip of his sword, he sketched the plan. Jack floated over to peer down at it- it was simple; the Vikings were going to split into three groups and attack in a triangle formation. Simple, but effective, he supposed.

Well, effective against a normal enemy.

“When we crack this mountain open, all hell is going to break loose,” Stoick rumbled.

“And my undies.” That was Gobber, earning himself several odd looks. “Good thing I brought extras.” Jack would have chuckled if he hadn’t known how dire the situation really was.

“No matter how this ends, it ends today.” Stoick started the slow march towards the side of the mountain. Jack gripped his staff tightly in both hands.

“You have no idea,” he murmured. “You should have listened to your son.”

Stoick marched on to his position, stopping only then. He raised his hand in a silent signal, and the Vikings inhaled a collective breath. After a second, Stoick dropped his hand, and the catapults were cut loose. Large, heavy stones pounded against the mountain, forming deep cracks in the weathered rock. The catapults were reloaded quickly, and several more rounds were fired in quick succession.

The rock wall crumbled and finally gave way, creating a large, jagged tunnel into the hollow mountain. Stoick climbed up to the entrance, peering into the dark. He made another hand signal, and a bundle of tightly packed grass and wood was loaded onto a catapult and set ablaze. It flew neatly into the tunnel, illuminating it and giving the Vikings a glimpse of the walls and ceiling; they were covered in dragons, pressed in tightly from tail to snout, writhing and shaking and making the tunnel look like a living, moving thing.

Stoick gave a war cry that echoed in the tunnel, and leapt inside. His warriors took their stances as the dragons took off in a single mass, fighting and clawing their way free and into the sky. They didn’t bother with the Vikings below- they flew as fast as they could away from the island. Toothless curled in on himself as much as he could with his chains, watching the other dragons go. Jack touched his flank.

“I wish we could go with them too.”

The Vikings swiped at the dragons as they went, but not a single dragon stuck around long enough to actually get hit. When they were all gone, disappeared in the fog, the Vikings stared at the sky in confusion.

Someone called out a cheer. “We done it!” The others took up the call, raising their weapons in what they thought was victory. Stoick, though, was staring over their heads, straight at Toothless. Toothless struggled uselessly against the chains.

“This isn’t over!” His voice carried, even over the din of the celebrations. “Form your ranks; hold together!”

The ground began to shake, violently enough that Jack could feel it from his spot in the boat. The sound filled the air, as loud as the humming had been before, but much more violent. Toothless went stiff, eyes widening, and Jack stood.

The rock above the hole the catapults had made splintered, pieces flaking off as the mountain shook. Hot wind gusted out of the tunnel, a roar louder than any Jack had heard before. The Vikings closest to the tunnel were forced to retreat as the rock pushed outwards. Stoick was shouting orders, trying to get everyone out of the way.

The mountainside finally gave, hunks of rock flying everywhere as the massive dragon that Jack and Hiccup had faced before burst out. Its head was as big as Jack had remembered, but looked even worse now that he could see the body it was attached to. Thick legs held up a thick-skinned body. The ridges on the dragon’s back themselves were taller than Jack and were a mottled red color that offset the dim gray of its body. Its wings were tucked securely against its back, where Jack couldn’t make out much about them.

Vikings ran for cover, ducking behind the catapults with pale faces. Stoick didn’t even try to direct them; they scurried across the beach in chaos.

“Don’t worry big guy, I’ll keep an eye on you,” Jack promised and launched off of the ship. Stoick was staring at the dragon uncomprehendingly.

“Odin, help us,” he murmured. Jack frowned.

“Hiccup told you!”

The giant dragon roared again, shaking to dislodge the last of the crusty rock that had settled between its spines. It ambled forwards, feet crashing down and sending people running even faster. Stoick ordered the catapults to be fired. The stones did little but annoy the dragon, who snapped the nearest catapult up and crushed the thick wood in its jaw. Another catapult splintered below one mighty foot, and one of the warriors yelped.

“Back to the ships!”

Jack and Stoick both shouted at the same time. “No!”

Several men and women had climbed aboard the nearest ships when the dragon opened its mouth wide. The flames that billowed out weren’t short blasts, like a Gronkle or a Zippleback, but they weren’t molten like a Nightmare, either. The flames were thick, and dry, and streamed continuously from the dragon’s mouth. The ships caught fire easily, the heat drying the wood almost instantly before the flames blew over them. The Vikings aboard were forced to dive into the water and drag themselves to shore again.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Jack sped towards the dragon. He couldn’t do much, especially not with the heat pouring from its mouth. Still, he grabbed at his magic, letting it build before pushing it out, letting his ice hit the dragon’s head. It didn’t hurt the dragon, but its head slung around, the rest of the fire shooting up over the fleet. The dragon shook the hit off, huffing.

With a gust of wind, Jack hurried back to the ships. The one Toothless was on was positioned at the edge of the line, and was better intact than the others, though the flames were still eating at it. Jack dropped down as close as he could, but the heat made him wobble in the air. “Toothless!”

Toothless shook his head, nodding frantically at the beach. While the others fled to one side of the beach, Stoick and Gobber were sprinting on either side of the dragon, yelling and throwing anything they could get their hands on to get its attention. Eyes narrowed, and the dragon reared, front feet rising off the ground as it built up steam, preparing to blast Stoick away. Jack flipped, racing towards them, palms sweating with doubt.

The gas that ignited the fire was beginning to build in the dragon’s mouth when a blast knocked it to the side. Jack grinned when he saw a flash of color, and the Berk dragons swooped down in front of the big one. Snotlout was on the Nightmare, holding tight to its horns but looking a lot more confident than he had before. Fishlegs and the Gronkle made an odd but fitting pair, and the twins each took a head of the Zippleback. And there was Hiccup, on the Nadder with Astrid, watching the others with an eagle eye and calling corrections to them when they needed it. The people of Berk stared openmouthed, forgetting about fleeing completely.

Jack flew up and evened out beside Hiccup. The Nadder gave him a side look, but Hiccup grinned. “About time you showed up,” Jack said. “Hiccup, Toothless is still on the ship.”

“Okay. Fishlegs! Can you break it down for us?”

“Heavily armored tail made for bashing and crushing- steer clear of both. Small eyes, large nostrils- relies on hearing and smell,” Fishlegs listed, studying the dragon, which had given up on the Vikings and was tossing catapults into the air.

“Okay. ‘Lout, ‘Legs, hang in its blind spot, make some noise, keep it confused. Ruff, Tuff, find out if it has a shot limit. Make it mad.” Hiccup gave orders like his father, Jack realized. The twins grinned and headed off to aggravate the dragon, while Snotlout and Fishlegs headed for the spot behind its head where the small eyes couldn’t see it. Hiccup nodded. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.” He turned the Nadder towards the fleet, and Jack led him to the ship Toothless was on.

Jack could hear the big dragon shoot a stream of fire, but a glance back told him that the twins’ Zippleback had been too fast for it. He pointed Hiccup to Toothless’ boat, and Hiccup hopped down onto the wood. “Go help the others,” he told Astrid, before turning to tug the metal band off of Toothless’ mouth.

Jack clenched his jaw and dropped down beside Hiccup, trying to fight off the heat. “I can’t hold it back for long,” he warned, thumping his staff down and sending out a wave of ice that melted and dripped onto the fire around them.

“Keep an eye on the others,” Hiccup requested. Jack hovered, still dropping ice into the fire to delay it some.

“Snotlout and Fishlegs are still going at it,” he reported. “Wait… The noise is making their dragons fall.” Hiccup increased his efforts, grabbing a slightly charred spear and trying to break the chains holding Toothless down. “Fishlegs reached the ground alright, Snotlout is on the dragon’s head. He’s good for now, but I don’t think it’ll take that for much longer.” Snotlout, from what Jack could see, was hitting the dragon in its eyes, making it roar in pain. One particularly hard hit made the dragon flail, shaking its head and whipping around.

Jack saw the tail coming before it hit. “Hiccup, look-!”

The ship buckled and split in two, sending Toothless sinking down. Hiccup dived after him, and Jack hovered. He could see Hiccup struggling, but the water loomed below him. He froze, staring at the waves and feeling his chest tighten harshly. He couldn’t do it….

Water splashed, hitting Jack’s foot, and he saw a large figure swimming down. Stoick grabbed Hiccup and lugged him up, tossing him towards the shore. Jack caught him and laid him out on the rocks while Stoick leapt back in. Hiccup coughed, sitting up with an arm around Jack.

“Dad?”

The water was still for long moment before Toothless broke the surface, heaving Stoick to land before dropping down next to Hiccup. He motioned for Hiccup to get on, and Hiccup nodded. “You got it bud.”

As Hiccup was strapping himself in place and tightening the saddle, Stoick rushed to his side. “Hiccup. I’m sorry… for everything.”

Hiccup’s eyes flickered to Jack before turning back to his father. “Yeah, me too.”

“You don’t have to go up there.”

“We’re Vikings,” Hiccup said with a half-grin. “It’s an occupational hazard.”

Stoick gripped Hiccup’s hand. “I’m proud, to call you my son.”

For a moment, everything faded in the background. Hiccup didn’t smile, but the look on his face said that he had finally heard the words that he had been waiting for his entire life. “Thanks dad.”

Toothless nodded and took off. Jack spared Stoick one last glance before following.

Jack could see the twins catch Snotlout when he jumped in a move that was admittedly impressive. He would have taken time to admire it, but the big dragon inhaled, catching Astrid’s Nadder in the gust. Astrid yelped, but her Nadder couldn’t beat its wings fast enough to break away. “Hiccup, help Astrid!”

Toothless built a shot up, screaming across the sky as Hiccup directed him towards the fight. The Vikings below ducked, several screaming, “Night Fury!” But Toothless let loose of the shot, knocking the big dragon’s head to the side further than any other hits had managed to do. Astrid’s Nadder careened, trying to right itself midair, but Astrid slipped over its shoulders. Her screams rose as she fell, flipping through the air.

Toothless halted and shot back the other way, plucking Astrid out of the air. Hiccup peered over Toothless’ side. “Did you get her? Please tell me you got her.”

Ducking his head, Toothless gave Astrid a grin that was easily returned.

“He got her,” Jack assured. Hiccup sighed in relief.

Toothless skimmed low over the beach and deposited Astrid on her feet. She ran along the shore, towards the other Vikings, as Jack and Hiccup headed for the dragon. Hiccup looked at Jack.

“You don’t have to do this,” he said quietly. Jack scoffed.

“I can’t let you have all the fun, can I?”

Hiccup nodded, eyes soft, before turning to the big dragon. “Huh, that thing has wings. Okay, let’s see if it can use them.” He directed Toothless up before dropping into a dive. They took the right side, while Jack went left, and they hit the dragon with a blast or fire and ice, respectively. With a cry, it slid and fell with a loud thud, feet scrabbling for purchase as it pulled itself back up. The double hit seemed to be the last straw, as the dragon ducked down, shaking its middle.

Wings, twice as long as the dragon’s body and at least three times as thick as Toothless’ extended out. They crackled with disuse, but they were tattered and flight torn. The strong gusts from the wingbeats nearly knocked the first row of Vikings over as it took off, pushing away from the island and into the air. Hiccup nodded in grim satisfaction.

“Well, he can fly.”

Jack would have rolled his eyes if he hadn’t been dodging the sea cliffs that fell as the dragon crashed into them, heedless of the stone that never stood a chance against its thick skull. He and Toothless weaved around the stone pillars, leading the dragon away from the people of Berk.

Jack’s wind had managed to brush some of the fog away, and Hiccup glanced up at the sky. Though the fog was clear, the sky wasn’t. It was covered in thick, heavy, gray clouds. Hiccup motioned upwards. “I think it’s time to disappear.” He angled Toothless’ tailfin, sending them into a steep climb. The dragon followed gracelessly, lumbering through the sky as much as it had on land. It sent a blast of fire that had them dodging sharply as they disappeared into the layer of clouds. The dragon followed, pausing to look around once it breached the clouds.

Hiccup motioned for Jack to swing around, and together they hit it from both sides, swapping places only to cut back sharply and hit it again, knocking it around in the clouds and making it shake in with fury. It roared, voice wavering in anger, and it let out a blast of fire, spinning and sending flames in all directions, trying to hit at least one of them.

Jack ducked when the dragon whipped around, avoiding its fire. One massive wing cuffed him in the back of the head, sending him flipping. His grip on his staff loosened and it slipped from his hands, dropping down.

“Jack!” Toothless turned, trying to get past the fire to dive.

“No!” Jack called. “I’ll get it! Stay focused!”

Hiccup had that expression that said he wanted to argue, but Toothless rolled and he caught sight of the tailfin- it was singed. Jack nodded before turning into a dive, arms straight out towards his staff.

He fell through the clouds, coming out into the clear air. The island was a blur below. Behind him, Jack could hear the dragon’s roars, but he bit his lip and focused on his staff. He couldn’t help Hiccup without it.

The fall was loud, wind whistling in Jack’s ears. His hooded cloak flapped against his back. He ducked his head, trying to ignore it. He was gaining on the staff…

His fingers finally closed around the knobby wood and he drew the staff to his chest. The wind hit him, slowing his fall. He barely avoided crashing into a sea cliff, dropping to the side before slowing enough to shoot back up. He scanned the clouds, looking for Hiccup.

With a loud cry, the big dragon burst through the clouds in a straight dive. Squinting, Jack could see Toothless just ahead of it. The embers on the tailfin were getting brighter, and Jack’s stomach dropped. He pushed off of the cliff, begging the wind to get him to Hiccup.

The dragon’s mouth opened, a low whine signaling the building of its fire. Jack screamed for the wind to go faster. Toothless kept his downward dive until the gas began building at the dragon’s mouth.

He turned, firing a blast right into the dragon’s open mouth. Jack was close enough to see scorch marks appear on its wings. Tiny holes tore in the skin, and with a ripping sound grew. Smoke poured out of its mouth, streaming behind it. Its eyes rolled, claws grasping uselessly in the air.

They were coming up on the island fast. Toothless veered up as the dragon hit the rocky shore. The fire that built inside the dragon came exploding out, travelling up the length of its body. Toothless weaved through its spines, trying to stay ahead of the flames.

Jack knew something was wrong when Toothless veered to the left. The tailfin, almost completely burnt, fell off. Toothless flapped his wings frantically, trying to keep his upward momentum, but there was nothing he could do when the giant tail swung around, the dragon’s last throes. It slammed into Toothless, sending him into a wide spiral. Hiccup was knocked out of the saddle, falling limply.

Jack screamed.

The wind howled.

Toothless turned back towards the fire, wings and gravity dragging him down towards Hiccup.

The fire engulfed them.

The rocks on the island froze over with a thick layer of ice. Every breath that the villagers of Berk exhaled misted in the sudden cold. The fire of the dragon dissipated in a flurry of sleet and snow.

Jack dropped to the beach harshly, ignoring the pain in his heels at the rough landing, and ran across the rocks. He could hear Stoick’s heavy boots behind him, but he was faster with the wind’s help.

Everything was covered in ash and ice, and the air was still littered with both.

“Hiccup! Toothless!” Jack screamed, begging.

He nearly tripped when he saw Toothless’ prone form lying ahead. He tossed his staff aside and knelt, touching Toothless’ head. “Hey, hey big guy. You’re okay, you’re alright,” he said quickly. Toothless opened one eye and shifted, looking at Jack. With a pained groan, he lifted his wing.

Hiccup was lying there.

Jack crawled forward, hovering over Hiccup, unsure what to do. He was covered in soot, but the skin Jack could see beneath it was pale. Toothless moved his wing over more and Jack saw the blood. “No…” Carefully, he pressed a hand to Hiccup’s chest.

“No…”

He brought his ear close to Hiccup’s mouth.

“NO!”

Stoick knelt through Jack, making him hiss and jerk away. “Help him!” he demanded. Stoick felt Hiccup’s chest, his wrist, and his neck. Jack wrung his hands when Stoick lifted Hiccup gently and pressed an ear to his chest.

“Gobber!” Gobber pushed through the crowd. “His heartbeat’s slow, but it’s there. Can you help him?”

Jack felt his stomach unclench, but Gobber looked unsure. “It’s serious, Stoick. He needs treatment now, and the ships will take too long.”

“I’ll take him.” Astrid and her Nadder stepped forward. “It’ll be faster,” she said when Stoick frowned. He sighed. “Get him to Gothi’s quick,” he commanded. Astrid nodded.

They loaded Hiccup in Astrid’s lap quickly. She soothed the Nadder. “We’ve got an important job, girl,” she murmured. The Nadder glanced back at her. “We’ll get him there safely,” Astrid told Stoick.

The Nadder took off gently. Jack stood, making to go with them, but Toothless whined. Jack knelt beside him. “Toothless, you can’t fly like this. I couldn’t work the tailfin, even if you had it.”

Toothless glared and struggled to his feet, eyes defiant. Jack bit his lip, glancing to the horizon where Astrid had disappeared. “Alright. I’ll see if the wind can carry us. But it’ll be a bumpy ride.”

Toothless shot him a look that spoke volumes.

“Alright, alright. Let’s go.”

-----

Gothi had trekked her way to Stoick’s house by the time Jack and Toothless made a clumsy landing back in Berk. They ran up to the house. Snotlout’s Nightmare was there as well. It had probably been faster than them, since the wind had had trouble carrying Toothless.

Gobber was, surprisingly enough, sliding off of the Nightmare’s back. He looked a little green, but simply shook his head and hobbled up the stairs and into the house. Snotlout watched him go before directing the Nightmare up and out over Berk again. It looked like the dragons were helping get everyone back to Berk since their ships had been destroyed; the Nightmare went to join the Nadder and Zippleback in the harbor. They all grabbed a rope connected to a boat and pulled it out to sea.

Toothless huffed and stamped his foot, nudging Jack and motioning to the door.

“I think we need to let them work,” he murmured. Toothless’ ears drooped. “Hey, don’t worry. They’re just- just patching him up, alright? He’ll be right as rain in no time.”

Even as he said it, his heart clenched tightly.

-----

It wasn’t until early the next morning that Gobber stepped out of the house, wiping sweat off of his brow. During the night, Stoick had joined Toothless’ and, unbeknownst to him, Jack’s, vigil outside of the house. He stood when Gobber stepped out, looking up at him. Gobber stared back.

“Stoick…. I’m, I’m sorry.” He sniffed.

“Hiccup…” Stoick gasped. “No.”

“I did everything I could,” Gobber said thickly.

“Let me see him,” Stoick demanded. Gobber tried to shake his head, but Stoick insisted. “Let me see my son!”

Jack felt like something in his chest snapped as Gobber led Stoick into the house, shoulders slumped. Toothless snorted as ice crawled its way across the grass, starting from where Jack stood.

“Hic…” Jack’s stomach jumped. “No. No, no. No!”

Toothless shifted over, trying to press against Jack’s side, but the wind whipped in between them. He stayed quiet, but the wind screamed for him. He buried his hands in his hair, tugging harshly, but he was numb. He didn’t even hear Toothless yelling at him. The door opened, and Gothi stepped out, peering out into the sudden storm.

Her shirt was bloody.

Jack fled.

The wind picked Jack up, tossing him into the air. He clung to his staff, letting it lead him along. With his eyes shut, he didn’t even look where he was going.

The wind couldn’t drown out Toothless’ cries, begging him to come back. He clenched his eyes shut tighter, not looking back.

Hiccup was dead.

Chapter Text

Thick, heavy silence met Jack’s final declaration as the words sunk in. He fiddled with the hem of his sleeve, looking down at his lap. The dreamsand dragon, which had curled up in Jack’s lap for most of the story, floated up and nuzzled against his cheek. Baby Tooth followed suit, dropping down to his shoulder and curling up against him comfortingly. Only then did he look up at the other Guardians.

Golden figures were flashing above Sandy’s head, too fast for Jack to make out. Bunny’s shoulders were slumped, ears set back as he rolled his empty glass in his hands. North was staring into his scotch, eyes heavy. Tooth was the first one to break.

“Oh, Jack… I’m so sorry.”

Jack swallowed thickly. “I, uh, I went back. About a year after… that.” He scratched the end of his nose with a sigh. “I kept thinking, maybe I was wrong. Maybe… I mean, I never saw his… I never saw him. Maybe they were wrong, and he was okay, you know?”

“What happened, mate?” Bunny asked when Jack trailed off.

“I didn’t even make it to Berk.” Jack looked down again. “The sea around Berk is really rough and unpredictable, and there are hundreds of small islands and rocky outcrops surrounding the main island. I was flying low over some of them, trying to stay below the clouds that day. It was raining, but I caught sight of someone down on one of the outcrops. It was Stoick.” He bit his lip. “Vikings would burn their dead, if you didn’t know. The only markers left were for the bravest warriors; chiefs, heroes, and legends. But there, on that tiny chunk of rock in the middle of the ocean, was a small grave. You couldn’t see it unless you knew it was there. Stoick, he was kneeling before it, just staring. I dropped down beside him, and stood there for a long time. Just as I was about to leave, I heard him.”

Jack looked up.

“He said, ‘I’m sorry… Hiccup.’ I couldn’t- couldn’t stand it. So I left, and I never went back.” He clenched his fists tightly. “I left Toothless. I left him alone with people who knew nothing about him!” His nails dug into the skin of his palms sharply. “He was hurting just as much, and he had no escape, but I still left him. Some friend I was,” he muttered.

There were tears in Tooth’s eyes. Her wings quivered and she fluttered forwards, arms outstretched. “Jack…”

He stopped her.

“There’s more,” he explained quietly. He had to finish it, had to tell the entire story. Tooth nodded, subtly wiping at her eyes as she sat back down. Jack took a deep breath.

“It happened nearly three hundred years after Hiccup died…”

-----

Jack might have no longer been threatened by the cold, but he could still feel it in a dull, distant way. The crevasse, dug deep into the ice, blocked the wind, but the cold still dug at Jack in a way that he knew would be agonizing if he were human. He could only imagine how bad it was for Baby Tooth, huddling in the pocket of his hoodie and shivering violently.

She wouldn’t even be in this mess if it wasn’t for him! Jack cursed himself, curling up into a ball. “Maybe Pitch is right,” he murmured to himself, voice echoing off of the solid ice of the walls. “I ruin everything.” The Guardians. Baby Tooth. Pitch. Hiccup…

Tears pricked the corner of Jack’s eyes. He hadn’t thought of Hiccup in nearly three hundred years (that was a lie, and a bad one; he had never stopped thinking of Hiccup, even if he wouldn’t admit it) and the sudden wave of sharp nostalgia hit him hard. At least Hiccup didn’t have to see the failure that Jack had become.

“Jack?”

“What?” Jack sat up at the voice. It was the same voice he heard in Pitch’s lair; a girl, calling his name. It sounded like she was talking right in his ear.

“Jack? Jack!”

A chirp caught Jack’s attention, and he looked down to see Baby Tooth struggling to wrestle his tooth box out of the hoodie pocket. It was glowing brightly, the pattern on the top illuminated. Baby Tooth looked up at him expectantly. Jack swallowed thickly. Was he really prepared to do this?

Baby Tooth nodded encouragingly, patting Jack’s knee. He lifted a shaking hand, touching his fingertips to the box gently.

The memories began slowly…

-----

The sea is a wild thing, unyielding and terribly free. At times it may look favorably on a man and bring him good fortune, at others it consumes all who dare enter its treacherous waters. No man could tame it, no beast was more powerful. On the ocean, there were no guarantees, no promises.

Jack could remember his father talking about the sea in such ways ever since he had been able to understand. “A healthy dose of respect and a wagonload of fear would not go amiss when dealing with the sea.” At least, those were the words that Samuel Overland went by.

Respect and fear meant little to a storm.

The water came crashing down on the ship, tearing wood and mast and the grip he had on Emma’s hand apart. The debris and salt water swirled around, tossing Jack to and fro. It was only by pure luck that he managed to fight his way to the surface for a single gasp of air before he was swept away again. His fingers flailed through the water, looking for anything to grab; he had to get to Emma.

He surfaced again, and his hand smacked a rough slice of wood, just barely big enough to hold on to. A desperate arm was thrown over it, and he clung to it. Salt stung every inch of his skin and rain still pounded on his head. He drifted, though he could not tell for how long, before he heard it.

“Jack!”

He blindly turned towards the source of the sound, unable to see past the water. He collided with something solid and soft, and he latched on. “Emma!”

“Ja-ack,” his sister spluttered. He hurried to throw her up over his shoulders, lifting her above the water where she could breathe.

“I’ve got you,” he panted, shifting further onto the wood so he could support them both. “I’ve got you. Don’t be scared.” There was no telling if she even heard him, but Jack repeated himself over and over, reassuring anyone who would listen. Himself included.

The storm broke, leaving the rise of a pale morning sun to greet them. The sight of the wreckage was incomprehensible; could the jagged and torn pieces before them really be the ship they had set sail on?

While Jack held them afloat, Emma called out for their parents. There was no reply.

Jack’s mind grew hazy, his legs moving much slower than he was telling them to and his breaths coming in gasps. With a grunt, he heaved Emma upon the wood. “Jack, no…!” He could no longer feel his legs, but he managed to give Emma a smile before he went under.

It was quiet under the water. Peaceful, even. Jack’s tired mind celebrated the rest. The burn in his chest was almost a welcome relief.

He was too far gone to notice the rough hands dragging him upwards, back towards the air. He coughed and spluttered, but the rough wooden boat beneath his back rocked rhythmically and soon lulled him towards unconsciousness.

-----

He did not approach consciousness as gently as he had found unconsciousness. The dull ache in his chest and the sharp dryness in his throat made sure of that. Even with the pain, however, Jack had a sense that he was lucky to be opening his eyes again.

Emma. The ship sank. They could barely swim.

That was enough to get Jack moving. He ignored the soreness encompassing his entire body and pulled himself to his feet. The floor was rough wood, scratching pleasantly against the soles of his feet. A quick glance around told him that he was in a wide wooden hut.

Jack missed his shepherd’s crook more than he ever had before as he began hobbling towards the door.

The blast of cold air that hit him after he yanked the heavy door open knocked the breath out of his lungs for a moment. He gasped, blinking against a sharp wind that hit his unprotected face. When his vision cleared, he found himself in the middle of a village.

“Jack!” The familiar voice had Jack turning in time to catch the small for that barreled into his middle. He coughed and knelt down, looking into Emma’s worried eyes.

“Emma,” he gasped hoarsely. She loosened her grip some, but still clung to him. “You’re alright.”

“You… you idiot!” Emma hit Jack’s arm weakly. “I was so scared.”

“Hey, hey, you’re okay,” Jack reassured. “I’m okay. We’re fine.”

Heavy footsteps approached, and Jack was swept into his mother’s arms. His father hovered behind her, normally impassive face softened with relief. “You gave us quite the scare,” he said softly.

“Glad to see that you’re back in the land of the living,” a booming voice announced. Jack let go of his mother to turn and see the biggest mountain of a man he had ever seen in his life. The man’s face was framed by a thick ginger beard, but Jack could see his eyes trailing over the family appraisingly. He exuded authority from his very being. Finally, the man broke into a wide smile. “Welcome to Berk.”

-----

The memories came quicker then, flashing across Jack’s eyes…

-----

“Jack!”

Emma had made friends quickly in their new village. She had plenty of playmates; a big change from their old home, where it had just been her and Jack. It was nice to see her smiling again; she hadn’t been happy to hear that they were moving. Even though there had been no other children to play with back in the colonies, it had been their home for as long as she could remember.

The other children helped her adjust to Berk quickly. She spent most of her time out in the village playing. Jack did his best to keep an eye on them, as he always had for Emma. They were good kids, and they seemed in awe of the tall, skinny teenager that actually paid attention to them rather than brushing them off good naturedly.

Emma tugged on Jack’s sleeve, looking up expectantly. “Jack, do you have your skates still?”

Jack looked down at her, and then over at the curious faces of the other children. “My ice skates?” Emma nodded. “No, they were lost with the ship.” Emma’s face fell.

“I wanted to show everyone. They’ve never been skating before!”

Jack chuckled. “Never?” he asked. The other kids shook their heads. “We’ll have to fix that, won’t we?”

Emma’s eyes shone. “Really?”

“Sure thing! It’s going to get cold soon, so there should be some good ice ready for us.” He ruffled Emma’s hair, making her shake her head. “I’ll see if I can get some materials together to make the skates.”

“Oh thank you, thank you, thank you Jack!” Emma bounded over to her friends, mouth stretched in a wide grin.

-----

“Jack!” Emma’s voice was filled with equal parts delight and concern as she looked up at Jack, hanging upside down from a thick tree branch.

“Believe me now?” he asked Hilda, the oldest girl of the bunch. She nodded, staring up at him with wide eyes. Jack chuckled. “Told you!” He swung up and dropped down, landing on his feet. “The Overlands are the best tree climbers you’ll ever meet!” he declared with a flourish. The children swarmed towards him, laughing and jumping.

“You climb better than a dragon!”

“Oh really?” But what was a dragon? Jack wondered to himself.

“Can you fly?” Another kid asked. Jack laughed.

“Maybe! It’s a secret.”

The sun was beginning to set, lighting the sky up in fiery hues. It wasn’t long before the women of the village were calling for the kids to come home. Jack walked them back to the village center, seeing them home safely. Once they were all gone, Jack hooked his arm through Emma’s and headed home. The villagers were preparing for the night. Everyone nodded or waved as they passed.

Almost everyone.

“Who was that?” Jack asked Emma after they had passed. She looked back at the skinny brunette they had passed. Jack had never seen him before, not that he knew everyone in the village yet. Emma knew more of their neighbors than he did.

“Him? Oh, they call him Hiccup,” she said with a shrug. “He’s always by himself.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.” Emma tugged on Jack’s arm. “Come on, let’s go. I’m hungry!”

Jack laughed and let Emma pull him towards their house.

-----

“Jack…?”

Jack nearly dropped the hammer he was inspecting at the sound of the voice behind him. He fumbled to catch it and whirled around guiltily. The boy he had asked Emma about a few days prior was standing there, looking slightly amused. Jack put the hammer down quickly. “What?”

“It is Jack, right?” Jack nodded.

“Hiccup, right?” Hiccup looked surprised.

“Y-yeah.” He grabbed a worn leather apron from a hook on the wall and tied it around his waist. “What are you doing here anyway?” He glanced at Jack as he added wood to the furnace of the shop, coaxing the coals back to life.

“This is the blacksmith, right?” Jack bounded on the balls of his feet lightly. “I was wondering if there were any spare scraps of leather, and maybe some iron, something small you wouldn’t need?”

Hiccup pumped air into the forge, blasting heat through the shop. “How much were you looking for?” he asked with a grunt.

“Enough leather for a few pairs of boots. Enough metal to make a blade the same length as the boots, two for each pair.” Jack blinked. “So I guess that’s actually quite a good amount.”

Hiccup rubbed his hands on his apron and turned to Jack. “You know the tailor makes boots, right?”

“I know. But I’m not just making boots,” Jack explained. “The kids wanted me to make some skates.” At Hiccup’s confused look, Jack added, “You know, ice skates? To skate on the frozen ponds in winter.”

“I see…” Hiccup looked away. He seemed to have trouble holding eye contact for too long. “I’ll have to ask Gobber, but I think we have what you need. You’ll have to work the metal here at the forge though. It’s the only one in the village.” He glanced back at Jack. “I’ll talk to him. Come back tomorrow, at the same time.”

-----

“Jack…”

Emma was standing in the doorway, little bare toes curled against the cold of the wooden floor, white nightgown pale in the dark. Jack was already up, sitting on the edge of the bed and looking out of the small window high up on the wall beside him. He turned and smiled.

“Bad dream?”

Emma nodded and padded over to Jack’s bed, stumbling wearily. She climbed up and curled against his side.

“What was it this time?” Emma had been having nightmares ever since she had been little, but they had gotten worse after the accident with their ship wrecking.

“Jack, what’s a dragon?” Emma asked in a small voice. Jack remembered hearing the other children saying that word.

“I don’t know,” he admitted, looking up at the night sky. The stars were dim, the moon almost completely full.

“Hilda said… she said they eat people.”

Jack wrapped an arm around Emma, pulling her close. “Don’t worry,” he said reassuringly. He gave a long sniff. “Once they get a whiff of you, they wouldn’t dare risk eating you.”

“Hey!” Emma shoved his arm, giving him an indignant look that had him laughing. Jack ruffled her hair, the way she hated.

“I wouldn’t let anything bad happen to you. You know that.”

“I know.”

When Emma finally fell back asleep, Jack quietly carried her to her room and tucked her in.

-----

“Jack? Hello!”

Jack blinked as Hiccup waved a hand in his face, bringing him out of his musings. Jack hopped away from the forge, letting Hiccup by to pump more air in from the bellows to keep the heat up. He studied the sword that was heating in the coals. He had to sharpen the edge, and Jack had to work around him, since he was borrowing the forge while Hiccup was actually working.

“What are you thinking about so hard?” Hiccup asked, once the forge was properly heated. He turned, crossing his thin arms over his chest. “If you do too much of that you’ll hurt yourself.”

“Why are you always by yourself?” Jack blurted, before he could stop himself. Hiccup smiled that smile, the one that was entirely too lonely and miserable to really be considered a smile.

“Who, me? I’m too cool to hang out with anyone else, obviously. They’re just jealous of my awesomeness.” He turned away, pumping the bellows again. “Anyway, I really need to get this done, so you probably won’t get to use the forge again today. Might as well go home.”

Jack could hear the dismissal, and left without another word.

-----

“What are you doing, Jack?” Emma rolled her eyes, watching Jack dance in the firelight. He was holding two crooked branches over his head, giving his shadow the appearance of horns. As he moved, the shadow danced across the wall, making the children scream in delight. He grinned at Emma, throwing her a wink.

Across the Great Hall, Jack caught Hiccup watching him. He was smiling.

-----

“Jack! Hilda-!”

Emma clung to Jack as he ran, carrying her away from the fire. A roar made the ground shake beneath his feet, and he looked back.

They were massive, feet and feet of muscle shifting under a thick skin of scales. Their teeth were long and sharp, threatening every time their mouths open. And the fire. It poured out of their mouths, molten hot and hard to dodge.

They were attacking, but were met with equal strength from the villagers. Jack ran to the closest building that he recognized; the forge.

“Hiccup,” he gasped, crashing into the room. Hiccup looked over and wiped his hands off.

“Is she okay? Is she hurt?”

“No,” Jack shook his head. “Hiccup, why-?”

“Jack!” Emma grabbed his collar and jerked him down to her level. “Hilda is still-! The dragon!”

Jack leaned over the front window of the shop, looking back where they had come from. The little girl was crouched under an overturned wagon, cowering as a large red dragon approached.

“Jack, wait- no!”

But Jack had already grabbed his staff and took off before Hiccup finished speaking.

Jack’s feet pounded on the ground as he ran across the village. He ducked under catapults and weaved around the villagers, ignoring their protests as he hurried as fast as he could. The dragon was almost to the wagon, and it didn’t seem to notice the girl trapped underneath it.

Heart threatening to burst in his chest, Jack hooked the crook of his staff in the dragon’s mouth when it threatened to spew forth more fire. He yanked it around, away from the wagon. Its eyes narrowed, tail whipping as its attention was drawn towards Jack instead. “Come on!” Jack yelled, popping it on the nose with his staff before running. The dragon followed with a bellow, making the hair on Jack’s neck stand up.

With a mighty yell, Stoick, the leader of the village, landed on the dragon’s head. He knocked it away from Jack and met it head on. Jack was more than happy to let him. He hurried back to the wagon, hefting it up with a grunt. Hilda crawled out from underneath and latched on to Jack’s leg, trembling. He scooped her up and carried her back to the shop. She grabbed onto Emma immediately, shoulders shaking with loud sobs.

-----

“…and then, Jack picked the wagon up, just like that!” Hilda gestured wildly, caught up in her retelling of the incident. The kids clapped, and the older teenagers looked on appreciatively. Jack had not had much to do with them, other than Hiccup. They were busy studying for their apprenticeships, and didn’t spend time with the children like Jack did.

They were very interested in his rescue of Hilda, though, hanging on to every word. Jack rolled his eyes from his spot in the corner. Emma pressed her knee against his. “Hiccup’s not here,” she observed. Jack nodded. Hiccup had been avoiding him.

It wasn’t like they spent a lot of time together, what with Hiccup working at the forge and Jack unofficially in charge of watching the children of Berk. But whenever Jack managed to get away to work on the skates, Hiccup had always been at the forge before. They would work in mostly silence, but every so often Hiccup would make some witty remark or Jack would ask a question about Berk, and they would talk until the sun went down.

Jack couldn’t imagine what he had done wrong. He missed Hiccup.

-----

A sigh filled the shop. “What do you want, Jack?”

Jack leaned against the doorframe, arms crossed defensively. “I am still allowed in here, right?” Hiccup hunched his shoulders, but didn’t turn around.

“Of course you are. But you’ve been standing there staring at me for hours.”

Jack toed a loose scrap of metal that had fallen on the floor. “I’m just thinking. I’m trying to figure out what I did.”

“I’m sure you do lots of things,” Hiccup said blandly. Jack snorted.

“Fine. I’m trying to figure out what I did to make you hate me.”

“I don’t,” Hiccup said quickly, finally turning to face Jack. “I don’t… hate you.”

“Really? I would have thought you did, the way you’ve been ignoring me.”

Hiccup looked down. “I… haven’t been…”

Jack pushed off of the door, walking towards Hiccup. He didn’t look up at Jack, even as he approached. “You have been. Ever since that last dragon attack.” He stopped right in front of Hiccup. “What did I do?”

“You didn’t…” Hiccup began, but Jack cut him off.

“Then what? Why are you avoiding me?”

“Why aren’t you avoiding me?” Hiccup burst out, looking up straight into Jack’s eyes. Jack was shocked enough to take a step back. “You saved that girl, and held your own against a dragon! The village loves you now. Why don’t you go hang out with the others? I know Snotlout wants you in his group. Even Astrid thinks you’re cool now!” He seemed to crumple on himself a little. “Why would you rather come here and hang out with me, the worst Viking Berk has ever seen?”

Jack’s jaw dropped in shock. “What are you talking about, Hiccup? You’re my friend! Of course I’d rather be here.”

“But you could fit in,” Hiccup argued. “You could be with them instead of me.”

“I don’t want to be. I want to be with my friend,” Jack said, stressing the word ‘friend.’ Hiccup looked up at him, a glint of hope in his eyes. Jack smiled.

-----

The memories began to slow once more…

-----

“I like him,” Emma whispered into Jack’s ear. She skipped back over to Hiccup, at the edge of the pond. He was showing her how to skip rocks on the top of the water.

They were in a small grotto, down in a slight dip where the rain collected into a wide pond. Hiccup, on his day off, had promised to show Jack. The pond would be perfect to skate on once it iced over. Jack was finished with two pairs of skates, his and Emma’s, and was halfway through Hiccup’s and another small pair; the children could take turns using them.

Hiccup looked back at Jack, laughing at something no doubt embarrassing that Emma had told him. Jack smiled, admiring Hiccup’s face framed by the late afternoon sun. His freckles stood out in the light, dancing across his face.

These thoughts had started cropping up more and more. Jack pushed them to the back of his mind, trying not to think about it too much, but they wormed their way back to the front.

Jack liked Hiccup. He was small and a little cynical, but he was inventive and funny. He could make Jack laugh like no one else could. Going to the forge in the afternoons after the kids went home was the highlight of Jack’s days.

Not to mention he was good to Emma.

At first, she had been wary, thanks to the rumors that the kids spread about Hiccup. It hadn’t taken long for her to warm up to him, though. She liked the things he drew in his sketchbook, fascinated by the way he could get almost anything down in image on the paper. Hiccup had even gifted her with her own charcoal and roughly hewn paper, which she used at night before bed to draw on.

So yes, Jack liked Hiccup.

He was worried there might be more to it.

“Jack! Come try this,” Emma called, seeing that Jack had his ‘brooding’ face on. Jack pushed his musings to the side and joined her and Hiccup at the water’s edge.

He pretended that Hiccup’s crooked smile didn’t make his heart race.

-----

“Can’t sleep?”

Jack looked away from the sea, towards the source of the voice. Very few people bothered climbing the rocky sea cliff that overlooked the village, and even fewer did so at night, but he wasn’t surprised to see Hiccup standing there, nervously wringing his hands. He motioned to the spot beside Jack.

“I’m not intruding, am I?”

Jack shook his head, and Hiccup plopped down beside him, sitting cross-legged in the dirt. Jack looked over at him, admiring the way the moonlight made his auburn hair glow. Hiccup picked up a twig and scratched lines in the dirt.

“You couldn’t sleep either?” Jack asked after a while. Hiccup peered at him out of the corner of his eye.

“No. Too much on my mind.”

“Me too,” Jack admitted. Though it wasn’t actually much, just the boy that was currently sitting beside him. Hiccup had taken over his thoughts like a weed, and had bloomed like a flower. Suddenly, Jack had started seeing everything about Hiccup endearing, even his sarcastic looks when Jack did something extremely dangerous.

“What’s on your mind?” Hiccup asked quietly. He ducked his head. “Or is it… a who?”

Jack nodded unthinkingly. Hiccup twitched.

“Oh. I see.”

“Um, that is… I mean…” Jack stuttered. Hiccup shrugged.

“Is it Astrid? I mean, she’s the only girl our age. But she’s really cool, and pretty I guess…”

“You guess?” Jack asked with a strained smile. He figured that Hiccup probably had a crush on Astrid, but it still hurt to hear.

“Yeah…” Hiccup fell silent, focusing on his drawing in the dirt. Jack snuck a peek and saw the beginning of a face.

“What’s keeping you up?” he asked, tearing his eyes away from the drawing. Hiccup gave him a sheepish look.

“Also a… someone.”

Oh. That hurt. But Jack smiled and clapped Hiccup on the back. “You planning on saying something to her?” Hiccup shook his head. “Why not? She’d be lucky to have you.”

“Not… not a she,” Hiccup mumbled. Jack froze, but Hiccup didn’t stop. “I… please, just… don’t hate me, okay?”

Before Jack could assure Hiccup that he could never hate him, Hiccup leaned up on his knees and hastily kissed Jack’s cheek.

Jack stared in shock, touching the spot on his cheek. It burned like fire as his face grew red. Hiccup, he…?

“You…?”

“Don’t say it, please,” Hiccup begged.

“Okay.”

Instead, Jack pulled Hiccup close once more and pressed a hesitant kiss to Hiccup’s cheek in return.

-----

The last memory stretched on for a lifetime, lingering, detailed, clinging to Jack’s mind…

-----

Hiccup’s hair was soft against Jack’s fingers. He worked them lazily through the auburn locks, pressing close to Hiccup in the shade of a wide tree. Hiccup smiled nervously and leaned forward, hands gripping tightly to Jack’s close.

Their lips met for the first time, and Jack’s heart soared.

They were still kissing, slow and tentative, when Emma’s voice filtered through the trees. “Jack! Hiccup! I have the skates.”

Jack pulled back reluctantly, letting go of Hiccup before Emma came into view. He knew he was probably grinning like a fool, but his mouth still tingled with the memory of the kiss, and Emma was too excited to notice anyway.

Emma led the way down the familiar trail, skates swinging in her hand as she bounced along happily. While she wasn’t looking, Hiccup slipped his hand into Jack’s quietly.

The pond was frozen nicely, and even Jack couldn’t help but get excited as it came into view. Hiccup smiled fondly at his eagerness and watched as Jack carefully laced the skates snugly on his feet.

“You’ll have to show me how to do this,” Hiccup commented, inspecting his own set of skates curiously.

“It’s easy!” Emma called from the ice, already sliding to and fro.

“Hey, wait!” Jack called, standing up and tip toeing to the pond’s edge. “Let me check one more time to make sure the ice will hold.”

“Mmhmm,” Emma hummed, spinning in tight circles. Jack turned to Hiccup.

“Let me do this, and then I’ll help you get those on.”

Hiccup glanced over Jack’s shoulder, before giving him a quick kiss. “Okay.”

Jack was still grinning when he skated away. The ice was nice and thick as far as he could tell, but he circled around the pond to be careful, tapping his staff on the surface to test that it would hold.

He was halfway around the pond when…

“Jack!”

Emma’s voice trembled in a way that Jack had never heard before. He whirled around. Emma was standing still in the middle of the pond. Back on the bank, Hiccup was waving his arms frantically. Jack hurried towards Emma, but stopped at the tell-tale sound of ice cracking. It echoed through the air, and through Jack’s heart.

“Ja-ack, I’m scared,” Emma stuttered, looking at him with wide eyes. Jack slowly started towards her, but stopped when the ice below him fractured slightly.

“Don’t, don’t be. You’re going to be fine,” he assured as he knelt. He untied the laces of his own skates and stepped out of them onto the cold ice. “Everything’s going to be… going to be okay.” He glanced at Hiccup out of the corner of his eye, but there was no way that the ice could hold all three of them.

“Jack,” Emma whimpered. Jack reached for his staff, but it had skidded away when he dropped it.

“It’s going to be okay. It is. We’re going to… have a little fun.”

“No we won’t!” Emma cried.

“Yes we will. Would I trick you?”

“Yes-s,” Emma sobbed. “You always play tricks.”

“Yes well, well not this time. We’re going to play Hopscotch, just like we taught Hiccup yesterday. Here, I’ll go first.” He took a step and the ice crackled dangerously but held. He threw his arms out, circling them wildly and making Emma laugh. “One. Two, three!” He landed back on the solid ice, where his staff was. The wood was a comfortable, familiar weight in his hand. He looked at Hiccup before turning back to Emma. “See? Now it’s your turn.”

“One.” Emma shuffled one foot forward slightly.

“Two.” This step was bigger, actually moving Emma closer to Jack’s reach. The ice groaned.

“Three.” Emma took a big step, right into the crook of Jack’s staff. He hooked it around her waist and pulled with a groan, heaving his sister away from the thin ice. The effort sent her flying, and had him reeling back and falling on his rear. Emma climbed to her feet tentatively, but it didn’t even creak. She looked at Jack. Jack smiled. She was safe.

Jack looked at Hiccup, standing behind Emma on the bank and clenching his fists until his knuckles were white. He looked back at Emma as he slowly stood to his feet.

He knew what was coming.

The ice gave way, sending Jack down into the cold water below. It knocked his breath away, leaving him weak and unable to flail.

The last thing he heard among the bubbles was the sound of his two most precious people in the world.

“Jack!”

The cold and the dark overtook him.

Chapter Text

This time, Jack didn’t let silence fall. He immediately continued, ignoring the sharp intake of breath he heard from his left.

“And, well, you know the rest of the story. I fixed my staff and flew away to meet you guys at Jamie’s.” He scratched at his arm through his hoodie absentmindedly. “I kept the teeth box. Sorry, Tooth.” He risked a glance at her, and immediately wished that he hadn’t. Tears were streaming down her face. Jack quickly looked away. “I’ve never told anyone this. Well, obviously not the memories, since I only just got them back,” he babbled. “But about Hiccup either. I’ve never…”

Baby Tooth crooned on Jack’s shoulder and touched his cheek when his voice caught. He realized that his eyes were wet. Numbly, he brushed his fingers along the corner of his eyes, staring at the tears that came away on the tips. “I’ve never talked about it. Never… cried.”

“Ya never got to mourn,” Bunny said softly. Jack dragged his eyes up to meet Bunny’s. There was no teasing there, no pity either. Just understanding. Jack’s lip trembled and he shook his head.

Bunny’s arms wrapped around him as he broke. He sobbed into the fluff on Bunny’s chest, gripping tightly to anything he could hold. Sandy pressed against his side, tiny hands rubbing over his back. Tooth’s wings fluttered as she, too, came closer. North shifted on the edge of his seat as Jack’s shoulders heaved. He rubbed his face into Bunny’s fur, feeling a tight pressure building in his chest.

“I lost him!” he cried, feeling the words claw out of his throat. “He’s gone, h-he’s gone! I lost him three times.” His hands balled into fists and he pounded them on Bunny’s chest. “Three! A-and he knew. Oh!” He shook his head frantically. “He knew, and he had to know-w that I didn’t.”

Bunny’s arms tightened, squeezing the fight right out of Jack. He collapsed, trembling. “We’ve got ya, mate,” Bunny murmured. Jack sobbed again, but he stayed limp.

He cried and cried, until he ran dry. After Hiccup had died, he had refused to cry. It would make it real, would mean that Hiccup was actually gone. Now, he was letting it all out, all of the built up hurt and sadness and anger came pouring out of him until he felt numb.

Finally, he seemed to run out of steam. Tooth’s fingers brushed his hair back and Sandy pushed a cup in his hands. He took a sip from it, which turned out to be water, cool and soothing on his throat. Only once it was drained did he let it go. He faintly wondered how long he had been crying.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, trying to dry the patch of Bunny’s fur he had been crying into with his sleeve. Bunny shook his head, making Jack look up at him.

“Sometimes, you just have to let it out,” he said. Jack had a strong feeling that he was speaking from experience. He nodded stiffly, blinking swollen eyes and yeah, that was going to hurt in the morning. Jack hated crying.

“Jack.” North spoke up for the first time. He stood, and Jack climbed to his feet as well. North placed a heavy hand on his shoulder. “Thank you, Jack. Thank you for sharing this with us.” He enveloped Jack in a hug, pulling him right off of his feet. Jack didn’t struggle, just wrapped his arms as far around North as he could and let the comfort soak into him.

“Thank you,” Jack whispered once North put him back down. He wiped at his face before turning to the other Guardians. “Thank you,” he repeated a little louder. “Thank you for letting me talk. For listening.” He looked down. “For being here.”

“Jack, we’re your friends.” Tooth smiled, though her eyes were still misty. “Of course we’re here for you.”

Jack smiled, mouth trembling. It had been a long, long time since he had felt like he had belonged anywhere.

Maybe this was what he needed. He would never forget Hiccup, could never forget him even if he tried. Yet… something in Jack relaxed. The knot in his chest that he had carried since Hiccup’s death had loosened after his cry. Bunny was right; Jack had never truly let himself mourn. He hadn’t known how it could have helped, before, but somehow… it did.

Jack was far from healed. But this could be the start.

-----

Nope. Crying sucked.

Jack leaned on his staff, blinking sore eyes. The late night combined with the hard bout of crying had left him sore and aching in that unique way that could only come from heavy tears. He shielded his eyes from the midmorning sun, looking around.

They were standing on a wide, flat cliff, overlooking a grassy plain. The sky was clear, with only a few clouds; the dragons would be able to land without trouble. Jack stood with the other Guardians, closest to the cliff. Other spirits waited behind them, but they were given the lead. The gathering was quiet, what little light conversation there was quickly blown away by the wind. It ruffled Jack’s hair, cooling the skin of his cheeks. He let his eyes slide shut. The presence of the spirits behind him fell away from his awareness and he focused on the feel of the wind on his face, the grass beneath his feet.

Murmuring filtered into Jack’s mind and he opened his eyes. Before they had even adjusted to the sun he could hear it.

Dragons. Roaring dragons.

They approached, flying low below the clouds towards the cliff. Jack squinted, trying to make out the shapes. There was a Zippleback, the easiest to spot, two heads outlined against the sky. A Monstrous Nightmare flew behind it. A few dragons Jack couldn’t immediately place. His eyes flickered to the dragon out in front, and he took an involuntary step forward.

A Night Fury.

It was bigger than Toothless, and as the company of dragons flew over the gathering, Jack saw the glowing blue markings over the dragon’s back. He had never seen those on Toothless; maybe that meant this dragon was a girl? Jack hoped that Toothless had found others, and had lived a long and happy life.

He shook away fresh tears. The dragons were circling lower and lower. They flew in tight formation, with an ease that spoke of plenty of practice. Jack was impressed. Several of the dragons had riders, more than Jack thought he would ever see.

The dragons finally angled down, coming in to land in front of the assembled spirits. Jack’s fingers itched to stroke scales both familiar and at the same time so, so new to him. He missed dragons, more than he had realized.

The unspoken leaders, the Night Fury and its rider, were the first to land. The rider slid off, checking flight gear and patting the Night Fury absentmindedly. The dragon looked over the gathered spirits with interest, before landing on the Guardians. Jack resisted the urge to hide behind North as those intelligent eyes turned to him.

The Night Fury blinked. It blinked again. Then it broke out into a heart-wrenchingly familiar grin. Jack’s heart thumped alarmingly in his chest. His feet carried him forward a few steps before he caught himself.

“Toothless…?”

Toothless- for how could it be any other dragon?- beamed and wiggled, tail whipping back and forth eagerly. His rider, forgotten until then, tried to settle him down. Even from across the cliff, Jack heard the voice.

“What is it, Bud?”

No. No, it couldn’t-!

The helmet came off, revealing a mess of auburn hair. Toothless nudged his rider, jerking his head towards Jack pointedly. The rider turned towards Jack, eyes widening.

Jack took off running before the Guardians could stop him. He flew across the empty expanse, nearly blind with emotion. His staff fell, clattering to the ground, and he tumbled into a chest that was slightly broader than he remembered. Arms that were still far too skinny caught Jack, crushing him close. The smell of worn leather hit Jack’s nose as he buried his face close.

“Jack?”

Jack looked up into familiar green eyes.

“Hiccup…” he breathed.

Hiccup smiled Jack’s favorite, crooked grin. "I found you."

Jack burst into tears.

Chapter Text

Jack could feel all eyes on him as he sobbed against Hiccup’s chest. Three hundred years he had gone without crying and now he was bawling into someone’s chest for the second time in less than twenty-four hours. Hiccup froze, unsure, and Jack just leaned into his arms.

It was one of the other dragon riders that finally broke the silence.

“Beard of Thor…. He does exist!”

A quick glance towards the source of the familiar voice showed…

“Gobber?” Jack asked thickly. The big Viking was staring at him.

The exchange seemed to jar Hiccup out of his reverie. He made a sharp gesture towards Toothless, and the dragon bounded over. Jack found himself lifted and placed on Toothless’ back. Hiccup made an apologetic bow in the Guardians’ direction before climbing behind Jack. Before anyone could protest, they were in the air.

If he hadn’t been so shocked, Jack would have enjoyed the ride. He had never actually gotten to ride on Toothless, not like this, with Hiccup. It was different, having someone else being in control while flying, but Jack trusted Toothless. It was exhilarating.

Hiccup leaned forward, brushing against Jack’s back, reminding him that Hiccup was here. Somehow, Hiccup was here. He waved a gloved hand, and a portal appeared, very similar to the ones from North’s snow globes. Toothless headed straight for the portal and flew through it, leaving the cliff and the other spirits behind.

-----

Jack would have taken the cave they landed in as a dragon’s den if it weren’t for the side room, filled with human necessities. He sat at the roughly hewn wooden table as Hiccup puttered around, stoking the fire up. Toothless came in after stretching his wings out from the flight. He pressed against Jack’s side, and Jack threw his arms around the dragon’s head.

“I’m sorry I left you,” he murmured, stroking the spot behind Toothless’ ears. Toothless looked at him with nothing but forgiveness. Jack rested his forehead against the dragon’s, closing his eyes. Toothless had gotten bigger, his head wider and his wings longer. He rumbled a happy purr, nuzzling against Jack.

When Jack opened his eyes again, he could see Hiccup watching them. The look on his face was so unbearably fond, it made Jack’s chest hurt. He sat up straight, clearing his throat.

“You’re lucky I’ve told the other Guardians about you,” Jack said after a moment. He didn’t want to imagine them chasing after Hiccup, trying to get him back. Hiccup grinned.

“Gobber will explain.” His grin faltered a little. “The other Guardians?” he repeated. Jack nodded.

“I’ve, um, finally figured out where I’m supposed to be? Jack Frost, Guardian of Fun.” He motioned to the tearstains on his cheeks and the way his eyes were slightly swollen from crying. “I’m sure I look like it.”

Hiccup laughed, but it wasn’t an unkind laugh. “A Guardian? I knew it.”

“Knew what?”

Hiccup smiled so softly that Jack blushed. “That you were special.” Toothless laughed as Jack’s eyes widened and he elbowed the dragon. Hiccup shook his head fondly at them. “Yeah, well Gobber will make sure they know you’re okay. And I’ll apologize to them.” He ran his fingers through his hair and walked over to sit across from Jack, footsteps thumping rhythmically against the stone floor of the cave. Jack glanced down… and looked again.

“Hiccup… your…?”

Hiccup looked down. “What this? Oh, yeah.” He lifted his left leg, tapping the metal prosthetic on the floor. “Do you remember the Red Death?” At Jack’s blank look, he explained, “That dragon we fought? They started calling her the Red Death.” He made a face that said he wasn’t too happy with the name. “After the explosion they took me back to Berk. I think it was the fire, but Gothi wasn’t able to save my leg. Gobber made me a new one. Well, he made the first and I tweaked with the design.”

Wait, what?

“Hiccup, what are you talking about?” Jack frowned. “You died.”

“What?!”

“Y-you died,” Jack stammered. “You died, that’s why I left.”

Hiccup stared at Jack, mouth agape. Toothless pressed against Jack’s side and gave Hiccup a look. He snapped his mouth shut and nodded.

“Jack, I didn’t die. Not then, and not after, really.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “I woke up several days after that, to a changed Berk, a missing foot, and no idea where you were.”

Jack licked his lips, looking down guiltily. “I saw Gothi, and there was so much blood, and Stoick looked so…” he shuddered. “I thought you were dead and I, I couldn’t handle it.” A calloused hand entered Jack’s line of sight and took his gently. He looked back up at Hiccup.

“I know.”

“You’re not angry?” Jack asked quietly.

“I was, at first. But only a little. After I realized what must have happened, I couldn’t blame you. I couldn’t imagine what I’d do… if you died.”

“But I did.”

Hiccup’s eyes snapped up to meet Jack’s. Jack nodded.

“I remember. I remember it all. Hiccup, I swear I didn’t mean to forget…”

Jaw set, Hiccup leaned forward on the table and cupped Jack’s chin, pulling him close and kissing him. His mouth was firmer than Jack remembered, slight stubble rubbing against his skin. Jack melted, clinging to Hiccup’s arm, the rough leather of his armor a grounding point against Jack’s fingers. Distantly, he heard Toothless leave the room, retreating back to the main section of the cavern.

When Hiccup pulled back, Jack chased him for another short kiss before letting go. Hiccup pressed their foreheads together, catching his breath, before pulling Jack to his feet. He led Jack to the corner of the cavern, where a makeshift bed stood. It looked more like a nest of blankets, round and dipped in the center. The mattress was soft as Hiccup coaxed Jack onto it.

“Making up for that poor excuse for a bed you used to have?” Jack teased as Hiccup kicked off his boot and crawled in after him. Hiccup just smiled and wrapped his arms around Jack. “I’m serious. I remember it. Just wood! It’s a wonder you never got splinters in your-”

Hiccup shut him up with a kiss. “I missed you.”

“I’m sorry,” Jack murmured. “If I had known…”

“I know.” Hiccup tucked Jack’s head under his chin, burying his face in Jack’s hair. “So you remember it all?”

“Yes. I don’t know why I lost those memories. I got them back, ah, this last year.”

“I wondered if I should have told you,” Hiccup admitted. “But to be honest, when I first saw you I thought I was imagining you.” He laughed sadly. “I wanted you back so badly, I thought that I might have made you up. And by the time I realized that wasn’t the case, it felt like it was too late to say anything. When I left to find you, I wished that I had told you.”

Jack hummed. “How are you here? If you didn’t die, then how…? Are you a spirit?”

“A lot happened after you left. Berk changed, and the Vikings and dragons lived together. Can you believe it? It was amazing.” Hiccup smiled, eyes looking faraway as he remembered. “Everything was peaceful for five years or so. The village was doing great, and we were learning so much. Toothless and I began flying out past Berk, going to new lands. We discovered a lot of new dragons, and met different people. We were, ah, looking for you,” he said sheepishly. “I thought that maybe we’d find you, someday, so we kept looking. Then everything changed when we came upon this fortress, completely covered in ice, and met a dragon trapper…”

-----

“…and then Drago fell into the ocean with the dark Bewilderbeast and we began to rebuild Berk.”

Jack laid there in stunned silence, trying to make sense of everything Hiccup had told him. He rolled over, propping himself up on his elbow to look at Hiccup. Where did he even begin?

“I’m sorry… about Stoick,” he said finally. Jack hadn’t been able to meet Stoick, since he had been invisible at the time. Even though Stoick had been unfair to Hiccup most of the time, Jack knew how much he had loved his son. He was a good leader, and a good man.

“Yeah,” Hiccup agreed. “It took a long time to accept that he was gone.” He looked up at Jack. “After Berk was rebuilt, I passed on the title of Chief to Astrid.”

“Astrid?”

Hiccup smiled. “You would have liked her, Jack. After she stopped being so defensive and competitive, she was my best friend. She made a great leader, too. Better than I could have.”

Feeling terrible, Jack had to ask, “Did you two…?”

Hiccup shook his head. “Never. There was never anyone but you.”

Ridiculously pleased, Jack kissed Hiccup’s nose.

“She was a better leader though, and a better Chief. I couldn’t stay in Berk, not enough to actually take care of the people. I couldn’t stop looking for you.”

“I’m sorry,” Jack apologized once again. He felt terrible. Hiccup had given up everything to go looking for him, and Jack had just up and left. Hiccup cupped his chin and forced Jack to meet his eyes.

“I’d do it all over again, given the chance.”

Jack didn’t know whether he wanted to kiss Hiccup senseless or cover his face in pleased embarrassment, so instead he asked, “What happened after that?”

“Well, that’s where things got a little stranger. I was going back and forth from Berk, and I started to notice that things with the dragons were… off. Something was getting to them, making them restless. And then one night, when Toothless and I were back at Berk, something happened.” Hiccup rubbed the back of his head. “The, uh, the moon spoke. To me.”

“Manny spoke to you? The Man in the Moon,” Jack clarified. Hiccup nodded.

“Yes. The world was changing too rapidly, and the dragons were in danger. So I was given an offer.” He cleared his throat. “Become the spirit of dragons and protect them.” He glanced at Jack’s expression.

“You said yes, didn’t you?”

“I did. How could I not?” Hiccup’s eyes softened. “The dragons needed me. And, I’m not going to lie, it would mean that I could better search for you.” He sat up, looking down at Jack. “I told the village. It wasn’t a very popular idea, but Astrid and the others understood. They knew how much I owed the dragons, and I had, well, I told some of them about you. They supported my decision. Only one person didn’t.”

Jack made a noise for Hiccup to continue.

“That night, I went down to the coastline, and I found Gobber there. He was yelling at the moon.” Hiccup smiled widely. “He was shouting, ‘You can’t take him! He can’t go on his own, he’s too stupid. He’ll just get in trouble. You’ll have to take me too!’.”

“He said that, to Manny?”

Hiccup nodded. “He did. And when I left the next day, Gobber came with me. He’s a lesser spirit, but the Moon still made him one.” He sighed, still smiling. “I don’t know what I would have done without him.”

“I’m glad he came with you, then.”

“I wouldn’t have been able to bring the dragons here without him.”

“Where is ‘here’ exactly?” Jack hadn’t been able to look around much after Toothless had flown through the portal. Hiccup grinned.

“Gobber named it New Berk, because he’s a sap. But after we left, things got rough. I couldn’t protect the dragons alone. So the Moon helped me create this place.” Hiccup pursed his lips. “It’s night now, but I’ll show you the valley tomorrow. It’s a safe place for the dragons to live, only accessible through me. Gobber and I aren’t the only ones who live here. Several spirits throughout the years arrived to help. But we take care of the dragons and protect them.”

“Wait, so you’re the one we were going to meet with?” What were the odds? Jack started laughing.

“What’s so funny?”

“Us. Just, us.” Jack pulled Hiccup down for a long, slow kiss. “Hiccup… I love you.”

“I love you too, Jack.” Hiccup ran a hand through his hair. “I was so frightened… A summer spirit stumbled upon us once. He was drunk on the summer nectar, and in his hands…” Hiccup clenched his fists. “If Gobber hadn’t been there, I might have hurt him,” he admitted. Jack placed a hand on Hiccup’s arm.

“What did he have?”

“Here.” Hiccup slid out of the bed and disappeared around the corner. He came back with something tucked under his arm. “He had this.”

Jack’s fingers trembled as Hiccup pushed a very familiar cloak in his hands. “I thought I’d never see it again…” he whispered. He hugged it to his chest. “When it disappeared, I was so scared… it was the last thing I had to remember you by.”

“The summer spirit was too drunk to remember where he got it. But it gave me hope. Because somewhere, I knew you were out there. You had taken care of the cloak, I could tell. And I knew one day I’d be able to give it back to you.”

Jack tossed the cloak aside and threw himself in Hiccup’s lap, wrapping his arms around Hiccup tightly. He kissed him desperately, tears collecting in the corner of his eyes. “I love you,” he murmured into the kiss, pulling Hiccup impossibly closer.

It would still take time. Some wounds would still need to heal, some decisions needed to be made up for. But Jack wasn’t alone any longer. He and Hiccup would recover, together.

Chapter Text

The party was wild, in that exciting way that you could feel down to your very core, controlled just enough to be acceptable and full of thick promise. North had been determined to outdo the previous year and, looking out over the assembled partygoers packed into the workshop, Jack had to admit that he had done it. Here and there among the spirits, various species of dragons could be seen. Jack spotted Toothless near the far wall, deep in silent conversation with Baby Tooth, gesturing to get their points across. Jack made a note to be wary of them; Toothless enable Baby Tooth’s prankster side like nobody else could, and they made quite a dangerous pair.

The other Guardians were down on the main floor, mingling with the guests. Jack leaned against the railing of the upper floor, looking down at them. Tooth was fawning over a Deadly Nadder who seemed to be enjoying the attention, fluffing her spikes up impressively. Sandy was telling one of his infamous stories to a cluster of spirits who were hanging on to his every sand sculpture. Bunny was in a drinking match with the Groundhog, glaring at him even as his eyes began to cross.

North was in the corner with Gobber, watching the others with amusement. Jack looked away when North’s hand landed on Gobber’s arm and began trailing upwards. Nope, he did not want to think about that. He was happy for them, but still.

Jack was drug out of his musings by arms wrapping around his waist. “You’re missing the party,” Hiccup said softly, kissing Jack’s temple. Jack smiled and leaned back against Hiccup’s chest.

“I’d rather stay here with you.”

Hiccup chuckled in Jack’s ear. “I made my appearance. I had to come to show that the treaty is still strong.”

“It’s only been a year,” Jack grumbled good-naturedly.

“I know. But they’re reassured now.”

Jack turned, throwing his arms around Hiccup’s neck. “Now that you’re done reassuring them, pay attention to me.”

Hiccup rolled his eyes. “Yes sir.”

When he dipped Jack and kissed him soundly, they received catcalls from below. Jack ignored them and gave back as good as he got, clinging to Hiccup’s shoulders and giving them a show. Hiccup grinned against Jack’s lips.

Life was good.